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Mar 15, 1:23 PM EDT

Former Iranian president's son gets 15-year prison sentence



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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A son of influential former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been sentenced to 15 years in prison over security and corruption charges, authorities said Sunday.

Judicial spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi did not offer the specific charges on which Mahdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was convicted in comments posted on the judiciary's website late Sunday. Iran's official IRNA news agency said Rafsanjani had been sentenced to 15 years.

Ejehi also said Rafsanjani had been sentenced to an unspecified cash fine and banned from public service.

"The verdict is not final. The defendant and his lawyer have 20 days to appeal the sentence," the spokesman said.

Rafsanjani went on trial last August in the Iran's Revolutionary Court, which hears cases mostly involving security offenses. His trial was held behind closed doors.

Rafsanjani is the former president's second-eldest son. He was briefly imprisoned in 2012 before standing trial on charges of fomenting unrest in the aftermath of Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election that former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won. Since the former president backed Ahmadinejad's reformist challenger, his family has come under tremendous pressure and faced charges in court accusing them of various crimes, all of which they have denied.

Critics view Rafsanjani's trial as a means by hard-liners to weaken his father ahead of the crucial parliamentary elections next February when the country will simultaneously vote to elect members of the Assembly of Experts, a top clerical body empowered to appoint or dismiss the country's supreme leader.

The elder Rafsanjani is a centrist politician who has promoted pragmatism and moderation in Iran but is detested by hard-liners who are worried that he may seek to influence the upcoming election. His public support was one major reason why moderate President Hassan Rouhani won Iran's 2013 presidential election.

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