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'Kargozaran' front page that its editor says prompted officials to close it
The editor of a reformist daily in Iran has blamed its closure on December 31 on authorities' reaction to the paper's criticism of Hamas's role in the current Israeli air strikes in Gaza, AP reported.

Mehran Karami said the order to shut down "Kargozaran" followed its publication of a reformist student group's statement saying Hamas was at fault in sparking the Israeli assault, which has left more than 300 people in Gaza dead.

The statement condemned the Israeli actions, he said, but labeled Hamas a "terrorist" organization that hid in schools and thus incurred civilian casualties.

Reuters noted the paper's perceived cozy relationship with former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and quoted the official IRNA news agency as saying officials shuttered the paper for "publishing an article authorities said was sympathetic to Israel."

Iran is a major backer of Hamas, and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has suggested Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Irek Murtazin
Prominent Tatar opposition blogger Irek Murtazin has been hospitilized with serious injuries to his head and body after being severely beaten, RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Murtazin, a vocal critic of the Kazan mayor and other city officials, says he was attacked by two men near his Kazan apartment last night.

Murtazin's family members told RFE/RL that they suspect the attackers are connected to the Kazan city administration.

Murtazin is working on a book, "Mayoral Team," which details corruption in the city government. He has accused current city officials of involvement in major corruption schemes linked to the city's public transportation system.

Murtazin also wrote "Last President of Tatarstan," which describes the authoritarian methods of Tatarstan's current president, Mintimer Shaimiyev.

Murtazin worked as a presidential spokesman from 1999 to 2002 before becoming an author and journalist.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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