Imprisonment of Rouhani’s brother seen as hardline ploy
The brother of Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has been arrested amid escalating tensions between the government and the country’s hardline judiciary in advance of the re-elected leader’s swearing-in ceremony next month.
Hossein Fereidoun, a top presidential aide who played a senior role in more than two years of high-level negotiations between Iran and the west over Tehran’s nuclear programme, was taken to prison after failing to secure bail on Saturday, local agencies reported.
The exact reasons behind Fereidoun’s arrest are unclear, but it was reportedly connected to financial charges.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, the spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, confirmed the news during a weekly press briefing in Tehran yesterday. “A bail order was issued for him yesterday and because he did not secure the bail, he was taken to jail. If he does so, he will be released on bail,” he said, according to quotes carried by the semi-official Isna news agency.
Rouhani’s supporters see Fereidoun’s arrest as part of efforts to undermine the president during his second term in office.
Rouhani is due to be sworn in on 6 August after his landslide victory in May. The reformist-backed candidate increased his mandate by 5m votes in an election that dealt a bitter blow to conservatives. A widening rift has since opened at the highest level of the Islamic Republic between the president and the country’s hardline supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The dispute concerns who has ultimate power in Iran, particularly over the judiciary and the armed forces.
Rouhani has recently sharpened his rhetoric over the conduct of the judiciary, saying that some arrests are arbitrary.
Iranian presidents are generally weakened in their second term and Rouhani’s predecessors all fell out with Khamenei after re-election as they jostled to leave their own legacy and test the limits of power under the Iranian constitution.
The former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was blocked from running in May’s election and his top aide was recently re-arrested.
Rouhani was heckled in June during an annual pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran, with protesters allied with the hardliners shouting slogans comparing him to Abolhassan Banisadr, the country’s first president, who was impeached and exiled after falling foul of the clerical establishment.
Local news agencies widely covered Fereidoun’s arrest in a sign that hardliners were prepared for a showdown.
Hossein Fereidoun, the brother of the president, took part in international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme