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Senior Clerics' Websites Blocked In Iran

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

The websites of three senior Iranian clerics -- Ayatollah Yusef Sanei, Ayatollah Assadollah Bayat Zanjani, and Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheyb -- who have been critical of the Iranian establishment and the postelection crackdown have reportedly been blocked in Iran.

Ayatollah Yusef Sanei (right) has come under attack by hard-liners over his support for opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi (left).

All three have condemned the filtering of their websites inside the country in separate statements and comments. The websites include news related to the clerics, their views and statements, and also their rulings on different religious issues.

Ayatollah Sanei, a reformist cleric in Qom, has come under attack by hard-liners over his support for Iran's Green opposition movement . A statement posted on his website says that the limitations imposed on the flow of information in Iran are a good test for freedom of speech in the country. The statement added that the website will continue its work despite the filtering.

A statement posted on Ayatollah Zanjani's website said that "in the age of information," no one can block people's sources of information and knowledge. "Without any doubt, these moves will have the opposite effect," the statement says.

Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani during a meeting with political detainees families in April 2010

Ayatollah Dastgheyb has also criticized the filtering of his website, saying that it goes against the claims of Iranian authorities who have said that freedom of expression prevails in Iran.

Dastgheyb, a member of the Assembly of Experts, is quoted as saying that his website has been blocked for a month. "When our friends asked about the reason in letters [to the authorities], they were told that Ayatollah Dastgheyb has spoken about the Assembly of Experts and he has expressed support for people such as [opposition leaders] Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, so the website should be shut down."

Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheyb

Dastgheyb, who boycotted this year's annual meeting of the Assembly of Experts over what he described as the body's indifference to the will of the people, last week challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by saying that the "vali faqih," or supreme jurist, chosen by the Assembly of Experts has "no right over the people."

Dastgheyb has also come under attack by hard-liners over his views and statements. The publication of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, "Sobh-e Sadegh," warned him last week not to follow the same line as late Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, who was put under house arrest for many years after challenging Khamenei's authority.

Clerics who have criticized the human rights violations that followed last year's presidential election have come under increasing pressure in the Islamic republic.

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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