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Brother of Iran’s President Is Sentenced to Prison for Corruption


The brother of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges, the state news media reported on Tuesday, and four people were sentenced on charges of spying for the United States and Britain, with one person facing the death penalty.

The penalties added to the perception that Mr. Rouhani is under increasing pressure in Iran, where he won elections in 2013 and 2017 partly on promises to curb corruption and end the country’s prolonged economic isolation.

Instead, corruption has flourished, the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement promoted by Mr. Rouhani is near collapse, and Iran’s economy has been seriously hurt by President Trump’s restoration of sanctions.

Mr. Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, was arrested in 2017 in connection with long-running accusations of corruption, the Fars news agency reported, and the Iranian judiciary said at the time that he was the subject of “multiple investigations.”

Asked whether Mr. Fereydoun faced charges in any other cases, a spokesman for the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli, said at a news conference that prosecutors were still looking at “his other case” and that it had not been forwarded to the courts. He did not offer any other details.

Mr. Fereydoun, who has held several government posts over many years, was accused several years ago by Raja News, a conservative outlet, of using his influence to place a friend, Ali Sedighi, in charge of a bank. The head of Iran’s General Inspection Office, Naser Seraj, complained at the time that Mr. Sedighi had been appointed after “insisting and lobbying by a government official.”

Mr. Rouhani, whose original surname was Fereydoun, was first elected six years ago in part on promises to end corruption in government, and he swept out many cronies left over from the administration of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But he found himself on the defensive as he ran for re-election in 2017. The Iranian news media reported that many top managers of state-run companies were earning huge salaries, especially by Iranian standards, and the accusations against his brother complicated matters.

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CreditVahid Salemi/Associated Press

In another blow to Mr. Rouhani, the 2015 agreement with world powers that curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for big economic benefits was abandoned by Mr. Trump, who imposed onerous sanctions including severe limits on Iran’s exports of oil. Hard-line factions in Iran’s hierarchy partly faulted Mr. Rouhani for having negotiated the agreement.

Mr. Fereydoun’s arrest in 2017 was seen at the time as an attempt by hard-liners to undermine Mr. Rouhani.

Separately, Mr. Esmayeeli said on Tuesday that the Iranian courts had sentenced one person to death and three others to 10 years in prison for spying for the United States and Britain, Fars reported.

Iran said in July that it had arrested 17 Iranian citizens on charges of spying for the United States, although it did not reveal the names of those arrested or offer any evidence of spying, and it was not immediately clear whether the sentences announced on Tuesday were connected to those arrests.

“Members of the team were identified last year with strenuous efforts of the Iranian security forces,” Mr. Esmayeeli said, “and its agents were identified in Iran’s sensitive centers, including the nuclear and defense centers and the country’s public infrastructures and most of them were arrested.”

The Iranian claims were quickly denied by the United States, with President Trump calling the accusations “just more lies and propaganda.”

The person who was sentenced to death was not publicly identified, although Fars said that his case would be appealed.

State media reported that Ali Nafariyeh was given a 10-year sentence and fined $55,000 for spying on behalf of the C.I.A., a figure that represented the amount that he was said to have received from the agency, and that another man, Mohammad Babapour, was given a similar punishment for spying for the United States, Fars reported.

The man charged with spying for Britain, identified as Amir Nasab, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison.


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