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Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's office manager and younger brother, Mohammad Hashemi, confirmed today in an interview with Iran's ILNA news agency that the website of the former president and head of the Expediency Council has been blocked after officials intervened over the site's content.

We reported earlier on the initial reports of the problem.

Now, Hashemi says, authorities asked the managers of the site "to purify" it, and reportedly specified that the ex-president's last Friday Prayers sermons should be removed.

In a Friday Prayer sermon in Tehran about a month after the disputed presidential vote in June 2009, Rafsanjani expressed doubts about the election results and called for the release of all postelection detainees.

Videos of the controversial sermon, which was not aired live by Iranian state television, were available on the homepage of Rafsanjani's website.

Hashemi says that after the webmaster of the ex-president's website failed to obey authorities' demand to remove the sermons, the website was blocked. He says the order came in an e-mail.

He calls the decision "illegal."

"It wasn't a legal order. In addition, it is not clear who ordered it," Hashemi says.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
The website of Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was filtered on December 29 for several hours, according to Iranian news websites, including “Tabnak.”
No explanation has been provided by officials or the managers of Rafsanjani’s website about the reason for the temporary blocking of the site.

The website is now reportedly accessible in Iran without the usual antifiltering tools that many use to access banned websites.
One website suggested that the website of the former president, who has angered hard-liners, deserved to meet the same fate as the U.S. Virtual Embassy for Iran, which was blocked a day after its launch.

“These days, the website of Hashemi Rafsanjani has put a lot of effort into creating divisions between the principalists and creating doubt about the health of the [March parliamentary elections]. It’s been to such a degree that if -- after the filtering of America’s virtual embassy for Iran and the filtering of the British embassy in Tehran -- officials in charge would move to block [Rafsanjani’s website], it wouldn’t be unfair," according to the hard-line “Bibak” website.
Rafsanjani has come under attack for his backing of opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi in the 2009 presidential election and also for criticizing the postelection crackdown.

UPDATE: Shortly after we posted the blog post, Rafsanjani's website became inaccessible. The website now seems to be completely down.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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