The managing directors of the Fararu and Aftab websites were released today following their arrest Monday by the Iranian authorities.
Gholamali Dehghan, director of Aftab News, and Mohammadhossein Khoshvaght, director of Fararu website, were arrested on February 14 along with the technical managers of the two sites for publishing “falsehoods.”
Both sites had reported that the ministry of the interior had issued a rally permit to the opposition after Turkish President Abdullah Gül, who was in Tehran on Monday as part of a four-day official visit, spoke in favour of allowing protests.
Iranian opposition leaders had issued a rally call to their supporters to demonstrate in solidarity with the Arab uprisings.
While the opposition did apply for the rally permit, the ministry refused the request. Opposition leaders decided to go ahead with rally, which ended up being mass demonstrations joined by hundreds of thousands of people in Tehran and all major Iranian cities.
The directors of Fararu and Aftab News, both reformist figures, had blamed hackers for planting the false news on their websites.
A number of reports indicate that a group called “the Anonymous Movement” has been hacking into Iranian government websites such as the foreign ministry, the Atomic Energy Agency, the national broadcaster Seda-va-Sima as well as state news agencies such as Fars, which was reportedly hacked into for hours.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that one of the members of this group has described these efforts as part of a long-term mission until “Iran is freed.”
“If the number and length of attacks are co-ordinated and continuous, within a few hours the targeted sites can cease to function,” the rights campaign was told.
A number of Iranians are apparently in the group and directing its choice of targets.
During the February 14 rally, the Islamic Republic blocked access to opposition websites. MirHosein Mousavi’s Kaleme, Mehdi Karroubi’s Saham News as well as the Balatarin website were temporarily inaccessible during the anti-government demonstrations.