The Iranian judiciary made two notable announcements on Tuesday: Hossein Fereidoun, brother of President Hassan Rouhani, has been sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges, and an alleged “CIA spy” has been sentenced to death.
According to a judiciary spokesman, Fereidoun has been the subject of “multiple investigations” for financial corruption for years. He was arrested in 2017, and released on bail. His jail sentence was handed down after pressure from the public and members of the Iranian parliament.
Iranian media said Fereidoun was jailed because he “allegedly paid money to certain individuals in charge of bribing banks and other influential sectors of the economy for large sums.”
The judiciary spokesman indicated that Fereidoun could face more punishment for additional charges. Tuesday’s announcement was actually phrased as a bit of good news for the defendant, who had his sentenced reduced from seven years to five.
Rouhani supporters believe Fereidoun, a close aid to the president, has been unfairly scapegoated for corruption, and was deliberately targeted by “religious hardliners” in the judiciary who wanted to apply political pressure against Rouhani.
Fereidoun was involved in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), i.e. the Iran nuclear deal, which was supposedly a victory of Iranian “moderates” over “hardliners” for which the latter want revenge.
The judiciary also announced the death sentence for “wide-scale acts of espionage and cooperation with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency” against an individual who was purportedly part of a U.S.-British spy ring. The other alleged conspirators were given ten-year prison sentences.
“The director of the Intelligence Ministry’s counterespionage department said the spies had been employed in sensitive centers or worked in private sector firms related to these centers active in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency wrote on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera noted Iran has been announcing huge busts of U.S. spy rings over the past few months, with at least one other death sentence ostensibly carried out According to Al Jazeera:
It was not immediately clear if any of the cases were linked to Iran’s announcement in July that it captured 17 spies working for the US spy agency, CIA.
Occasionally, Iran announces the detention of spies it says are working for foreign countries, including the US and Israel. In June, Iran said it executed a former staff member of the Ministry of Defense who was convicted of spying for the CIA.
In April, Iran said it uncovered 290 CIA spies both inside and outside the country over the past years.
At the same press conference, the Iranian judiciary confirmed for the first time that a British-Iranian anthropologist named Kameel Ahmady was arrested in August due to “suspected links to institutes affiliated with foreign intelligence services.”
The UK Independent noted Ahmady has a history of writing about issues the Iranian regime finds uncomfortable, such as women’s rights and child marriage.