Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s younger brother, Hossein Fereidoun, has been arrested on unspecified financial crimes charges and an American citizen has been sentenced to a decade behind bars for "infiltrating" the country.
In announcing both cases during a regular press briefing with local journalists on July 16, judiciary spokesman Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejei said Fereidoun, a senior diplomat who took part in the talks that led to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, was taken into custody over allegations of financial impropriety and is eligible for bail.
"Multiple investigations have been conducted regarding this person, also other people have been investigated, some of whom are in jail," spokesman Ejei said at the news conference, which was broadcast live on television.
"Yesterday, bail was issued for him but because he failed to secure it he was referred to prison," Ejei added. He said Fereidoun would be released "once he provides the bail."
The United States immediately called upon Iran to release any U.S. citizens or other foreigners being held on "fabricated" charges.
"We call for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families," the AFP news agency quoted a State Department official as saying without making specific reference to a person.
The unproven charges were a focal point of the May presidential election, with the president's hard-line challengers demanding a judicial investigation of the accusations against Fereidoun, who is also a top aide to President Rohani, a relative moderate.
Rohani, who changed his surname from Fereidoun years ago, trounced his nearest opponent to secure a second term in office in the first round of voting in the election.
Fereidoun has long been accused by Iran’s hard-liners of financial crimes and corruption. He has reportedly been linked to officials at the center of a scandal involving inflated salaries for managers of a state insurance company.
In January, a group of conservative Iranian parliamentarians called for Fereidoun to be put on trial for economic crimes, a move critics described as politically motivated.
Many Iranian hard-liners, whose influence runs deep within the judiciary, were upset with the nuclear deal Fereidoun helped strike. They felt it gave away too much for too little in exchange.
The U.S. citizen whose sentence was also announced on July 16, was not named but Ejei described the person as a dual citizen of the United States and another foreign country.
"It was verified and determined that he was gathering [information] and was involved in infiltration," Ejei said.
Ejei did not elaborate on the specific charges that led to the conviction, which he said could be appealed. He also did not say when the verdict was rendered.