Image of Ahmadinejad consoling Chavez’s mother angers Iranian clerics

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under fire from the country's clerics over a photo of him consoling the mother of Hugo Chavez at the late Venezuelan leader's funeral—physical contact that's considered a sin under Iran's strict Islamic codes.

The photo, released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press Office, shows Elena Frías' right hand clutching Ahmadinejad's left, her head against his, as they stand near the flag-draped coffin of her son at a military academy in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday.

The image drew the immediate fury of Tehran's religious conservatives. “No unrelated women can be touched unless she is drowning at sea or needs medical treatment," Hojat al-Islam Hossein Ibrahimi, a cleric at the Society of Militant Clergy, said, according to Iran's Al-Monitor.

Some of Ahmadinejad's supporters insisted the image was fake, digitally altered from a different photo showing the Iranian leader embracing an older man. But as The New York Times noted, the man-hug image was quickly debunked as a Photoshop job:

A side-by-side comparison produced by Entekhab showed that this image had been created by lifting the head of Mohamed ElBaradei, the former chief of the United Nations nuclear agency, from a previously published photograph of him greeting another Iranian official with a kiss in 2007.

Video of Ahmadinejad's embrace of Frías also surfaced, seeming to prove the original image's authenticity.