Iran detains President Hassan Rouhani’s brother, sentences Chinese-American

Dubai: The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been detained over unspecified “financial issues,” the judiciary said, a development that reflects increasing tensions between the president and his hardline political opponents.

Hossein Fereydoun was taken into custody and is eligible for bail, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said, according to state-run Tasnim news agency. He didn’t give a reason for the arrest of Fereydoun, who assisted Rouhani during nuclear talks that led to Iran’s 2015 agreement with world powers.

Some of Rouhani’s political opponents have condemned the deal, which traded sanctions relief for the curbing of Iran’s nuclear program. They say the president and his team were too lenient and that the agreement has failed to reap promised economic benefits. The judiciary, which operates independently from Rouhani’s government, is run by more hardline politicians.

Fereydoun had already been the target of attacks by some conservative politicians. They alleged he played a role in a scandal that emerged a year ago over high executive wages by appointing one the paid directors. Accusations of financial impropriety against him were also brought up by Rouhani’s rivals during the presidential election in May. He has denied wrongdoing.

This is an attempt by Rouhani’s opponents to put forth “corruption as a weak point of his administration to weaken him both in the eyes of the international community and the Iranian population,” said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Rouhani, a politically moderate cleric, was re-elected in May on his original platform of easing Iran’s isolation and welcoming foreign investment. His inauguration is planned for 5 August and afterward he will nominate cabinet appointments.

The timing of the arrest may be aimed at “influencing the nomination of certain people in key position” or forcing concessions from Rouhani, Bassiri Tabrizi said.

Also Sunday, the judiciary disclosed that a US citizen was sentenced to 10 years in jail for allegedly “infiltrating” the country. The sentence can be appealed, it said.

The dual Chinese-American national was identified as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old history researcher, according to Mizan Online, a website affiliated with Iran’s judiciary. His detention, which reportedly took place in August last year, wasn’t previously known. Wang was a graduate student in history at Princeton University in New Jersey

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