Tehran - A former mayor of Tehran who once served as one of Iran’s vice presidents has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife after she was found dead in her bathtub Tuesday afternoon, shot several times.
The former mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, 67, was arrested Tuesday and handed over to prosecutors Wednesday morning, according to the state-run news outlet IRNA.
Citing an Iranian prosecutor, the news outlet reported that Najafi had turned himself over to the police and had confessed to shooting his second wife, Mitra Ostad, 35.
Gun crime is rare in Iran, and Najafi’s prominent political status has made the crime all the more shocking, raising questions about how the country’s news media covers domestic violence.
The state broadcaster IRIB news aired footage of Najafi on Tuesday, taken at a police station in Tehran, in which he sips tea with officials apparently unhandcuffed. Later in the video, while answering a reporter’s questions, Najafi smiles and talks casually about the circumstances of the shooting, which he appears to imply had been an accident during a marital dispute.
Najafi told the news outlet that he had suggested divorce to his wife several times, but that she would not allow it. He also described increasing fights with his wife that had led the pair to live separately.
Another clip, also posted by IRIB and widely shared on social media, shows the same reporter who interviewed Najafi handling the gun that was said to have been used in the attack, removing the magazine and handling the bullets one by one.
The video clips outraged some observers on social media, who said the images showed a comfortable relationship between Najafi and police officials, who treated him with deference, and neglect on the part of reporters who handled potential evidence.
Others denounced the news outlets for giving a platform to Najafi to explain away his actions.
Najafi resigned as mayor last year, citing illness, but many believe he was forced out by hard-line opponents. He was criticised for attending a dance performance by young girls at an event to celebrate International Women’s Day.
His resignation came months after he married Ostad, who is the second of his two wives, according to The Associated Press. Polygamy is legal in Iran, but many hard-liners criticized Najafi for marrying Ostad, three decades his junior.
Najafi has held several prominent ministerial positions in the Iranian government and served as vice president for cultural heritage and tourism under President Hassan Rouhani from 2013 to 2014.