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Iran jails former president's daughter on propaganda charges

Iran's ruling hardliners have dealt a blow to the power and prestige of their country's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, by jailing his daughter for "spreading anti-state propaganda".

Iran's ruling hardliners have dealt a blow to the power and prestige of their country's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, by jailing his daughter for "spreading anti-state propaganda".

Faezeh Hashemi, a 49-year-old Islamic feminist, was arrested late on Saturday to serve a six-month sentence passed in January, Iranian media reported.

She is understood to be in Tehran's Evin prison where her father, a pillar of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and protégé of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, was once jailed by the US-backed Shah.

Mr Rafsanjani, a 78-year-old cleric, is a wily political survivor and pragmatic centrist who favours detente with the West.

But his influence has steadily diminished since he expressed sympathy for opposition demonstrators who challenged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "stolen" re-election in 2009.

His daughter's conviction is believed to be over an interview she gave to an opposition news website in which she criticised human-rights violations and economic policy in Iran.

Hashemi, a former parliamentarian, has long promoted women's rights within the strict confines of Iran's Islamic system, and is a former head of Iran's Women's Sports Federation.

Her jailing follows speculation that Mr Rafsanjani, reputably one of Iran's wealthiest men, could make a political comeback in next year's presidential elections.

Hashemi was detained briefly after the unprecedented unrest in 2009. She was arrested again in 2011, accused of chanting anti-government slogans during a banned rally in Tehran.

Her latest detention came as her brother, Mehdi Rafsanjani, was expected to return to Iran after studying in Britain during a three-year period of self-imposed exile. Iranian officials have said he should be arrested on arrival for fomenting unrest after the 2009 presidential vote.

He was in Dubai and expected to return to Iran yesterday, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iran specialist at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzilya, Israel, said if Mr Rafsanjani's opponents "think they can get away with jailing his kids, then it doesn't say much about his influence".

Media outlets close to Mr Rafsanjani, who served two four-year terms as president between 1989 and 1997, deny he harbours any ambition to resume the post. His favoured role is as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker. He has long kept a foot in Iran's reformist and conservative camps.

Mr Javedanfar said: "He has been strengthened by Ahmadinejad's policies which have been so counterproductive that they've created nostalgia for Rafsanjani's days [in power]."

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae

Updated: September 24, 2012 04:00 AM

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