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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
The head of the outlawed Iran Freedom Movement, Ebrahim Yazdi, holds a press conference in Tehran in 2005.
Iranian opposition activist Ebrahim Yazdi, who served briefly as foreign minister following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has been sentenced to eight years in prison, his lawyer told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah also said that the opposition figure was handed a five-year ban on civic activities.

The 80-year-old Yazdi, who heads the banned Freedom Movement, was put on trial on security charges, including acting against national security and spreading lies. Similar charges have often been brought against political activists in Iran.

Yazdi had refused to defend himself because he said he didn't recognize the Revolutionary Court's legitimacy to put him on trial and review the charges against him.

Yazdi has been in and out of prison in Iran over the past two decades. He was jailed in Iran last year and also following the 2009 postelection crackdown.

One of the main reasons for the sentence against him is reportedly his leadership of the Freedom Movement. Yazdi's open letter to Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahda, in which he warned about a repeat of the Iranian experience, is also said to have angered hard-liners.

In the October letter, Yazdi warned that Muslims don't have enough experience with democracy.

"We fight and overthrow dictators, but not dictatorship itself. Despotism is not just a political structure. It has its corresponding social and cultural dimensions, which enable it to persist and which become ingrained in individuals and whole societies afflicted by despotism for a long time.

"The result is that we Muslims overthrow despots often to see a new ones replace it. This is what has indeed befallen us in Iran. We deposed the shah, but neglected to address the 'shah' personality within our own selves. Thus the vicious circle continues."

Yazdi's son in law, Mehdi Nourbakhsh, told RFE/RL the opposition activist was suffering from prostate cancer and other health problems and was in need of constant medical care.

"Last time he was in jail he had to be transferred to the hospital several times" because of his health problems, Nourbakhsh said. "At his age and under these conditions I think what the establishment is doing to [Yazdi] is extremely unjust , unfair, and cruel."

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About This Blog

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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