Hardliners target Rafsanjani allies

Demands are being made for the cleric's son and a university chancellor to be prosecuted for alleged financial abuses during elections.

Mehdi Hashemi was accused of misusing funds when he ran the Iranian Fuel Conservation Co.
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TEHRAN // In the latest twist to Iran's post-election developments, hardliners are demanding the prosecution of two people with ties to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council, on financial and political corruption charges. The hardliners want to see Mehdi Hashemi, Mr Rafasnjani's youngest son, plus a political ally of the cleric charged based on allegations made by a defendant during the trial this week of several reformist former officials, politicians and activists related to the unrest following the June 12 election. Hamid Rasai, a hardline lawmaker, said the country's chief justice, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, must destroy the influence of the children of top officials and the powerful by conducting an investigation of the allegations made against Mr Hashemi and Abdollah Jasbi, the chancellor of the Free University. Mr Rasai made his comments to a government mouthpiece, the Iran newspaper. Referring to Mr Hashemi, he said Ayatollah Larijani must warn the top officials that their children are not exempt from justice. Allegations of misappropriation of government money and money laundering were levelled at Mr Hashemi and Mr Jasbi by Hamzeh Karami, the chief editor of Jomhuriyat, a reformist news portal, and a former employee of the government affiliated Iranian Fuel Conservation Co. Mr Karami accused Mr Hashemi, the head of the company at the time, of spending about US$2 million (Dh7.34m) of public money for his father's presidential election campaign in 2005. In one case, about $500,000 was paid to a publishing house to print one million copies of a book, but only 25,000 copies were made and the rest of the money went into Mr Rafsanjani's campaign activities, Mr Karami claimed. He alleged that Mr Hashemi did not believe in spending personal financial resources for political campaigns. He told the court Mr Rafsanjani's son resorted to extensive money laundering to cover up the alleged fraud. "He exchanged the money into dollars and back into rials several times and said that was meant to hide the source of the money," the defendant told the court. Mr Karami accused Mr Jasbi of putting the resources of Free University, which has more than 1.5 million students, at the disposal of the opposition and of conspiring to prevent the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president this year. These resources were used by Mr Hashemi towards trying to unseat Mr Ahmadinejad and for spreading vote-rigging rumours after the announcement of election results through the opposition media, Mr Karami alleged. Pro-Ahmadinejad hardliners consider Free University, which is a non-benefit foundation, a source of political campaign financing for Mr Rafsanjani. Mr Karami was arrested after the elections and charged with using journalistic activities to act against national security. Mr Karami, whose trial was broadcast on state-run television, defended himself. Mr Hashemi immediately denied the allegations made against him during the trial and in a letter addressed to Ezzatollah Zarghami, the head of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting organisation, demanded airtime to defend against the allegations made by Mr Karami. Mr Zarghami has not responded to Mr Hashemi's demand. Mr Hashemi's letter also said Mr Rafsanjani and his family have filed a suit with the justice system against Mr Ahmadinejad. Mr Rafsanjani's failure to congratulate Mr Ahmadinejad following the announcement of the election results this year, his refusal to attend the president's second-term inauguration ceremonies and his support for the opposition has hugely angered pro-Ahmadinejad hardliners. They allege that Mr Rafsanjani has been scheming against Mr Ahmadinejad since he lost to him in the presidential elections in 2005. "The process of sabotage and extensive political, security and economic activities of Rafsanjani and his clan against Ahmadinejad and his government began immediately after the elections" in 2005, the Iran newspaper wrote yesterday. "Mr Rafsanjani's message to the head of one of the Arab countries [four years ago] about the downfall of Ahmadinejad's government within six months very clearly demonstrates the time of the commencement of the efforts by the head of the Expediency Council [Mr Rafsanjani] against the president. Rafsanjani's office and house were the location of meetings for counteracting Ahmadinejad," the paper wrote. Mr Rafsanjani and his children have long been the target of financial corruption allegations made by hardliners and conservatives, including Mr Ahmadinejad himself. In 2005 Mr Rafsanjani alleged that the rival camp was waging an extensive character assassination campaign against him and his family. Mr Rafsanjani never accepted the results of the 2005 elections and did not congratulate Mr Ahmadinejad for his victory. During a controversial televised debate with Mir Hossein Mousavi, the lead reformist contender, one week before June 12 elections, Mr Ahmadinejad alleged that Mr Rafsanjani, not a candidate himself this time, was masterminding the campaign to prevent him from being elected to a second term in office. He also explicitly accused two of Mr Rafsanjani's children of fostering aristocracy as well as financial corruption and said they had been evading legal prosecution by the merit of their father's influence. msinaiee@thenational.ae