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Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karrubi (file photo)
The U.S. State Department's Persian-language spokesman Alan Eyre has sent condolences via Facebook over the death of one of the sisters of opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi.

In a message in Persian posted with a picture of Karrubi, Eyre writes that it was with "with deepest regret" that he found out about the death of Fatemeh Karrubi, the sister of the former Iranian parliament speaker.

The Facebook message is a small gesture by the State Department toward Iran's opposition movement, which has been under intense pressure from the country's leaders.

Iranian authorities have been holding Karrubi under house arrest with reportedly almost no contact with the outside world in an apparent effort to silence him and make the public and his supporters forget him.

In a letter issued last week, Karrubi's wife wrote that the 74-year-old cleric had recently undergone back surgery. She said Karrubi had been hospitalized in Tehran's Arad hospital for nine days.

Karrubi's family has expressed concern over his health, which they say has deteriorated under house arrest. Karrubi is reportedly being held at an intelligence ministry safe house.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi along with his wife university professor Zahra Rahnavard are also being held under house arrest.

The three opposition figures were put under house arrest in February 2011 after calling for a demonstration in solidarity with uprisings in Arab countries. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters responded.
Alan Eyre
Alan Eyre

Since the election of Iran's President Hassan Rohani, calls for their release have increased.

In his election campaign, Rohani had promised to release political prisoners.

The social-media-savvy Eyre had previously used Facebook to send his condolences over the death of the mother of Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

At the time, some users criticized Eyre for reaching out to an Iranian official.

--Golnaz Esfandiari
Mahmud Alavi in an address to parliament
Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi says there is "no need" for media to publish details of cases of economic corruption.

Alavi, who was speaking on January 14 to Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency, added that the coverage of corruption cases by the media could hurt investment in the country.

"There is no need to publish instances of action against corruption in the media," Alavi told Mehr. "Covering these cases affects investment's security instead of harnessing corruption."

It wasn't clear whether the comments would lead to more red lines for Iran's newspapers, which already face limitations in what and how they can cover sensitive issues, including the nuclear dossier.

In recent weeks, Iranian press and websites have been publishing details of alleged business dealings by Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani, who was arrested late last month for what has been described as "financial crimes."

His arrest came following an order by President Hassan Rohani to fight financial corruption particularly among "privileged figures" who have taken advantage of economic sanctions Iran is facing over its sensitive nuclear program.

Zanjani has been accused of evading sanctions through his network of companies in Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Tajikistan. Zanjani, who is reportedly being held at Tehran's Evin prison, has been blacklisted by the United States and the European Union.

READ more about Zanjani here

When asked about Zanjani's case and whether his ministry has sent a report to the judiciary, Alavi gave a vague answer: "A case is being reviewed by the judiciary, until this body issues a verdict, someone who has been merely charged with a crime, should not be presented as a criminal and be reflected as such in the media."

Alavi also said he couldn't comment on whether his ministry has reported on an alleged criminal case against 24 members of the previous government. "I can't comment on this yet," he said.

In 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told media "not to drag out" on financial corruption. Khamenei was speaking about the Islamic republic's largest bank-fraud case, which was estimated at $2.6 billion.

--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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