TEHRAN — Four children of an influential former Iranian president are suing a radical lawmaker for describing his family as a corrupt ‘‘octopus,’’ heating up a struggle between hard-liners and moderates simmering since a contested 2009 election.
The latest salvo has rekindled the bitterness between backers of the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and moderates headed by the former leader, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, just six months ahead of the next presidential election.
A lawyer filed the court complaint for the family against the lawmaker, Hamid Rasai, an ally of Ahmadinejad. Rasai is also a cleric.
‘‘Four children of Ayatollah Rafsanjani have registered their lawsuit against Rasai with the Special Clergy Court. I think Rasai will be summoned to the court within the next 10 days,’’ said lawyer Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, according to the ISNA news agency.
In a speech broadcast on state radio, Rasai called one of the ex-president’s sons, Mahdi Rafsanjani, a ‘‘corrupt monster who has always enjoyed ironclad immunity.’’ Rasai urged the judiciary to deal with him harshly, calling Rafsanjani and his kin an ‘‘octopus family’’ that pressured judiciary and security bodies to free Mahdi.
Mahdi Rafsanjani was released from Evin prison on bail earlier this month.
Authorities arrested him in September, a day after he returned to Iran from Britain, on charges of fomenting unrest in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election. He has not been put on trial.
Rafsanjani’s youngest daughter, Faezeh, is serving a six-month sentence on charges of distributing propaganda against Iran’s ruling system.
Since Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, Rafsanjani’s family has come under pressure from hard-liners. Rafsanjani, 78, supported Ahmadinejad’s reformist challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
In recent months, there are indications that Rafsanjani, who favors a moderate approach to the West, might try to make a political comeback.