Middle East

Tehran ex-mayor Najafi handed to prosecutors over wife’s killing

Tehran Image copyright Getty creative stock
Image caption Mr Najafi is a former mayor of Tehran

A former mayor of Tehran has been handed over to Iran's criminal court after confessing to killing his wife in a case that has shocked the country.

Mohammad Ali Najafi, 67, turned himself in after his second wife Mitra Ostad, 35, was found shot dead at her home.

Mr Najafi told reporters he had meant to threaten her and her death had been an accident arising from a scuffle.

A video of police officials drinking tea and chatting cordially with Mr Najafi has added to the controversy.

Iranians have been commenting online that the respect shown to Mr Najafi contrasts starkly with the way ordinary citizens are treated by police for relatively minor offences.

Mr Najafi, who served as Tehran's mayor from August 2017 to April 2018, is a veteran reformist politician who has held posts as prominent as education minister and at one point served as President Hassan Rouhani's economic adviser.

He was forced to resign as mayor of Tehran after being criticised for attending a dance recital by young girls.

How did his wife die?

Mr Najafi told reporters that he had lived separately from Ms Ostad, and that he had unsuccessfully tried to get her consent for divorce.

After a quarrel with his spouse, Najafi said he took a loaded gun and a pillow and headed to the bathroom, where Ms Ostad was.

At the sight of the gun, the woman "was scared and threw herself" on him but this only caused a scuffle during which Najafi shot her, he said.

Mr Najafi said he had considered suicide after killing his wife, but "later thought the best way would be through legal means" and turned himself in.

Tehran's police chief told reporters that Mr Najafi's permit to own a gun had expired four years ago.

What reaction has there been?

Ms Ostad's killing and Mr Najafi's subsequent treatment by police have led to heated debate on social media.

One comment asked whether "power and connections" would "prevent the appropriate application of the law".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Najafi, a veteran politician, has also served as an economic advisor to President Hassan Rouhani

Several people focused on Mr Najafi's consumption of tea at the police station, which they said appeared to have taken place before the evening Iftar meal, when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"So murder breaks your fast?" one user asked.

Another posted an image of police officers in an altercation with a man accused of breaking his Ramadan fast in public, writing: "Comparing how the police treat murderers with how they treat those who break their fast in public."

However Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi later insisted that the beverage had been served after Iftar. "We served tea to the case officer after Iftar and offered some to him as well, which is a humane gesture," he was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

Another social media user said sarcastically that if Mr Najafi had been treated in the same way as some women detained for not observing Iran's mandatory hijab law, which requires women to cover their hair, then "we would have seen the police chief's angry side!"

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