Im­pris­on­ment of Rouhani’s brother seen as hard­line ploy

The Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - Saeed Ka­mali

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

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