Last updated: 30 December, 2011

Iran ex-president’s website shut down

A website belonging to Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has criticised the current regime, has been shut down, his brother told the ISNA news agency on Friday.

“Yesterday (Thursday) evening, the company that provides the services made contact to tell us that they had been ordered to stop providing us the service,” Mohammed Hashemi was quoted as saying.

“Fifteen minutes later, the site was no longer accessible,” he added.

“We are going to see on Saturday who gave that order.”

He explained that Iran’s internet surveillance commission sent an email several days ago requesting that some of the content posted on the site be taken down, specifically speeches made by Rafsanjani during prayers.

Hashemi said the request was denied.

In 2009, following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election, Rafsanjani delivered a speech after Friday prayers in Tehran that was widely criticised by conservatives.

As the country faced sweeping anti-regime protests, Rafsanjani called for the release of those who had been detained during the unrest and urged greater press freedom to help restore calm.

Following those comments, the ex-president was banned from making speeches at Friday prayers.

An influential cleric who currently heads the country’s top political arbitration body, Rafsanjani has faced harsh criticism from conservatives who demand that he condemn publicly opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

The cleric and former two-time president had indirectly supported Mousavi against Ahmadinejad in the 2009 election after he himself lost to the hardliner in 2005.

Rafsanjani in recent months has distanced himself from the opposition leaders and he condemned the last anti-government demonstrations staged by their supporters. But his stance has not satisfied the conservatives.

His daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, was last week summoned by a Tehran court to answer charges of making anti-regime propaganda.

She was was arrested and released after taking part in a number of protests which erupted after the 2009 election that saw Ahmadinejad returned to office amid opposition claims the vote was rigged.

A son of Rafsanjani’s, Mehdi Hashemi, has also been targeted by court action in Iran. He left the country more than two years ago and now lives in London.