Trial of former Tehran mayor begins in Iran for murder of second wife

State-run Iranian television station IRIB aired a news segment on Najafi which featured footage of him at the police station casually discussing the murder of his wife.

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July 14, 2019 13:46
2 minute read.
Trial of former Tehran mayor begins in Iran for murder of second wife

Former Tehran mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi, accused of shooting his second wife, reacts during his trial at Iran's criminal court on July 13, 2019. The high-profile trial opened today of a former Tehran mayor charged with murdering his wife, Iranian media reported. The charge sheet read out in court in. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

 
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The high-profile murder trial of Tehran's former mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi, 67, has begun in the Islamic republic, Iranian media has reported. He is currently standing trial on charges of murder, assault, battery and the illegal possession of a firearm.

Najafi is charged with murdering his second wife, Mitra Ostad, 35, at her home in the Iranian capital in late May - she was found dead in her bathtub with several gunshot wounds attributing to the cause of her death. Najafi immediately turned himself over to authorities and confessed to the murder, according to an Iranian prosecutor.

Ostad's family is calling for traditional Sharia law to be applied, using the premise of Qisas (corresponding legal retribution) – lex talionis: "an eye for an eye," according to the Code of Hammurabi. 

The dispute apparently stemmed from Najafi suggesting to her that they get divorced, something he claimed she would not allow causing them to live in separate homes due to increasing marital disputes. He married Ostad without divorcing his first wife  a legal but culturally discouraged act in the Islamic republic.

State-run Iranian television station IRIB aired a news segment on Najafi which featured footage of the former mayor at the police station casually discussing the murder of his wife, which he claims to have been an accident.

The video set social media ablaze with criticism of the cavalier relationship the former mayor had with police officials and reporters during the segment. One clip even shows the reporter handling the gun allegedly used to murder Najafi's wife - even removing the magazine and taking out each bullet one by one, regardless of the effect it could have on such forensic evidence.

However high-profile this case may be, gun crime is a rarity in Iran. But the status and handling of this crime has raises questions about how the country deals with and reports on domestic violence issues. Considering that most of the television stations and broadcast networks are state-run or funded, some reformists have criticized the media coverage of this issue, claiming it is highlighting the case for political motives and not reporting fairly on the issue at hand.

Najafi retired in March of last year due to an illness and possible "political pressure," according to Radio Farda. However, some members of the Tehran City Council told the radio station at the time that it seemed unlikely Najafi's illness was serious enough to cause him to resign.

Former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh claimed that pressure by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his aides caused Najafi to resign.

"A security organization had told the Tehran City Council before Najafi’s appointment as mayor that the organization would not accept Najafi as Tehran’s mayor – and if the council appoints him, the security organization would disclose damning documents about his background," said council member Bahareh Arvin, according to Radio Farda.

Before his tenure as the mayor of Tehran, he served as economic adviser and education minister for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

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