Tehran (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - The political future of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is even more uncertain after the recent arrest of his son Mehdi and daughter Faezeh for "spreading propaganda against the regime" and supporting the "Green Wave" movement during protests that followed the 2009 presidential elections.
Faezeh Hashemi was sentenced in January to six months in jail but was arrested only on Sunday and taken to Evin Prison. Her brother Mehdi was detained on Monday at the airport. Rafsanjani's wife went to Evin this morning to try to see her daughter.
Such pressure on an ex president and his family is unprecedented in the history of the Islamic republic. Rafsanjani played a key role in getting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed as supreme leader in 1989 after the Father of the Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died.
In the past, he was seen as one of the key figures in the regime's survival because of his capacity to mediate among various groups inside and outside Iran. However, he has also been accused several times of corruption and amassing wealth.
Since his defeat in the 2005 presidential elections won by Mahmoud Ahjmadinejad, his authority has waned. He is seen as trying to undermine the supreme leader. He received a major blow in 2009 following the crackdown against the Green Wave movement.
For the past few years, the former president has come under intense pressure from his opponents, who forced him to quit his position as the head of a powerful clerical body charged with appointing and dismissing the supreme leader.
The arrests of his son and daughter are an additional indication of his ongoing struggle with Ayatollah Khamenei.
Medhi Hashemi helped his father remake his image for the 2005 election, mothballing the image of a regime diehard in favour of that of moderate social reformer. He also ran his father's economic and political affairs. In 2007, his adversaries accused him of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from the Total oil company.
In the 2009 elections, Mehdi Hashemi joined an independent commission to uphold the fairness of the vote, eventually challenging the validity of the ballots for Ahmadinejad.
After the unrest that followed the election, he fled to Britain. When his sister was arrested, he decided to return home and was in turn arrested.
Faezeh Hashemi is considered one of the most important women politicians in Iran. Elected in the past to the Majlis (parliament), she chairs a number of cultural organisations and is the founder of a magazine called Zan (woman).
Viewed as a reformer, she has on several occasions said that women should be free to wear the hijab (veil) or not and that they should have access to public sports.
After the 2009 presidential election, Faezeh came out openly in favour of the Green movement and was arrested twice by police.
Her critics accuse her however of being an opportunist, and a pragmatic supporter of her father's interests.