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Ex-Iran president's son returns from exile, faces charges

Aug. 30, 2012: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, right, chief of Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, second right, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, second left, and judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, left, at the Nonaligned Movement summit in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Office of the Supreme Leader)

DUBAI: The son of Iran's former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founder of the Islamic Republic, was detained on Monday after returning from exile, accused of inciting post-election unrest in 2009.

Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani arrived in Tehran late on Sunday having spent three years in Britain following the widespread protests at the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The 43-year-old presented himself at court to hear the charges and face questioning. His lawyer was not allowed to be present, the Iranian Students' News Agency reported.

Rafsanjani was then transferred to Tehran's Evin prison after the court issued a temporary detention order, news agencies reported.

Analysts say Mehdi's return could indicate a deal has been agreed with authorities to resolve the charges, and may signal a revival in the political fortunes of his father, a grandee of Iranian politics whose star has waned since the election.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a close aide to the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has held most of the Iran's top political positions, including parliament speaker, armed forces commander and president from 1989 to 1997.

But the pragmatic conservative's power has waned since he expressed sympathy for opposition demonstrators after the 2009 vote that triggered the deepest political crisis and worst unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

However, as oil and banking sanctions bite, some are saying Rafsanjani could make a surprise comeback bid for the presidency at an election scheduled for June 2013.

In a sign of his return to favour, Rafsanjani was photographed walking alongside Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran last month, and sat next to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

But the wealthy Rafsanjani family remains under pressure. On Saturday, Mehdi's sister Faezeh, a former lawmaker and a women's rights activist, began a six-month jail sentence for "spreading anti-state propaganda".

Faezeh was detained briefly in 2009 after addressing supporters of Ahmadinejad's main election rival, Mirhossein Mousavi, who himself has been under unofficial house arrest since February 2011.

 

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