The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
The charges against Hossein Fereydoun included bribery, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hosein Esmaeili said, according to the news agency.
President Rouhani, who was elected in 2013 on a platform that included fighting corruption, has not spoken publicly about the case.
The sentencing comes just a few months after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei appointed Rouhani’s rival in a previous presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi, head of Iran’s judiciary.
Raisi, who is affiliated to the conservative political party, has aggressively pursued financial corruption and cases against labor activists, including lengthy prison sentences.
Fereydoun, a special adviser to Rouhani, worked with the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team in 2015 as it pursued talks that led to the nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called 5+1 countries, which included the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany.
After President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2017 and reinstated economic sanctions against Iran, tensions have been mounting between the two countries. The sanctions have battered Iran's economy and put pressure on Rouhani.
In an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir last week, Rouhani called the sanctions "an economic form of terrorism" against Iranians and said they have been "extremely destructive and extremely hurtful."
The pressure has pushed Iran's economy to the brink. Double-digit growth was replaced by an economic downturn, as Iran’s oil exports plunged. Inflation spiked 31% in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund.
As of early this year, the unemployment rate of 15-to-24-years living in cities was at 31.5%, according to the official website of the quasi-government-run Statistical Center of Iran.
As the value of the Iranian rial drops, the price of goods has skyrocketed, with red meat and poultry climbing by 57%, vegetables by 47% and milk, cheese and eggs by 37%, according to the Statistical Center of Iran.
But while the government has blamed the west for its tough economic situation, his critics also point to the problem of widespread corruption.