A day after Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani stepped down from the chairmanship of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, someone hacked into two official websites and published false reports that the moderate cleric had died.

The sites belong to the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, which Rafsanjani continues to chair.

Fars news agency was the first to report that the sites of these two top government bodies were attacked by hackers to publish the false news. Mohsen Hashemi, the cleric’s eldest son told Fars news agency that his father is alive and completely healthy.

The news of Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s death was also denied by his office and the public relations officer of the Expediency Council.

Mohammad Hashemi, who runs Hashemi Rafsanjani’s office at the Expediency Council, said: “Hashemi Rafsanjani reacted to the news of his own death with laughter.”

The attacks against the moderate cleric, who had cautiously backed the reformists over the past year and half, reveal deepening fissures in the Islamic Republic system. They began to appear ever since the disputes over the controversial re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the summer of 2009.

Several analysts have speculated that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is trying to gradually remove Hashemi Rafsanjani from the political arena.