October 18, 2019
Hossein Fereidoun, the younger brother and confidant of President Hassan Rouhani was jailed on Wednesday October 16 after the Court of Appeal in Tehran sentenced him to five years in jail on the first of October.
Fereidoun was no ordinary man. He was Rouhani’s special assistant. People still remember his pictures next to his brother during the election campaigns, and with the Iranian and U.S. negotiators during the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
He still denies all the charges against him and has called on the Iranian Judiciary to let the people access the information he says he has disclosed during closed door sessions during his trial. The Iranian government portrays Fereidoun’s trial and many other similar cases as part of its campaign against financial corruption in Iran.
However, Fereidoun is not the only political figure as there are dozens of other high-profile public figures and celebrities currently in jail or free on bail waiting for further trials or going to jail in Iran on the same or similar charges. Although they have been convicted in court, they may also be the victims of political rivalries in the country’s factional political landscape.
According to reformist newspaper Aftab-e Yazd, these figures include Akbar Tabari, a top level manager at the Iranian Judiciary under its former Chief Sadeq Larijani whose detention was followed by a domino of other arrests, trials and imprisonments. Tabari’s arrest and the charges against him tarnished the image of Sadeq Larijani to the point that even the country’s state-controlled TV also launched a series of attack on him.
Another well-known figure in jail is former Vice-President Hamid Reza Baqai who has been jailed for 15 years on various charges including embezzlement. Baqai, like many others in jail rejects al the charges brought against him. He went on strike and his health conditions became serious more than once during his detention. Baqai has been in jail since March 2018 and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has protested against his imprisonment in letters to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Baqai, 48, is very close to Ahmadinejad, serving as his deputy before becoming chief of staff during the former president’s second term.
Yet another Ahmadinejad aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai is in jail for various charges including tearing and setting fire to the court ruling about Baqai in March 2018. Mashai is a close relative of Ahmadinejad.
In August 2018, Ahmad Araqchi, a deputy governor of the Central Bank and a relative of Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi (Araghchi) was arrested and tried for financial corruption in a major case of alleged corruption related to the Central Bank of Iran. The case was said to involve, among others, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.
Also in August, two Iranian lawmakers were arrested and briefly jailed in a case about financial corruption in Iran’s car making industry. A member of the Iranian Parliament told Fars news agency on August 22 that Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi were arrested in relation to a financial corruption case at SAIPA (Société Anonyme Iranienne de Production des Automobiles) one of the two major automobile manufacturing companies that have been assembling France’s Citroen and Renault cars for several decades in Iran.
Earlier, the managers of Iran Khodro and SAIPA, the two leading auto making factories in Iran were jailed and reportedly freed on bail until their trial.
In March, An Iranian billionaire football club investor on trial for financial corruption is using the opportunity of the public proceeding to criticize the government. Business tycoon Hossein Hedayati insinuated in court March 18 that he had information relating to Iran’s financing of militant groups in the region.
“They have branded me as an economic troublemaker for receiving secured loans. I wish I could have talked about the Resistance Front and ISIS,” Hedayati said during the hearing. He further criticized the judiciary for trying him publicly. “Why my trial is public, while the hearing for the President’s brother is held behind closed doors?” Hedayati asked.
Issa Sharifi, Tehran’s deputy Mayor under Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has also been in and out of jail for longer than a year for charges including those relating to financial matters, Aftab-e Yazd reported.
Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is another familiar face in jail in Iran. He is serving a 10 ear term for financial corruption charges.
Other inmates include Babak Zanjani who used to help the Ahmadinejad administration circumvent U.S. sanctions but failed to return the government’s money after he sold oil on behalf of the government. A similar case is that of Sharam Jazayeri, a self-made billionaire who is accused of giving money to politicians allegedly in return for favors. He has fled the country twice but was returned to jail once from a foreign country, and most recently from the border with Turkey.
Although the Judiciary appears to have substantial evidence to prove the charges, one of those on trial or in court were observed to have accepted the arguments against their case.