Ex-Tehran mayor sentenced to death over wife's murder

The trial, conviction and sentencing to death of former Tehran mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi for murdering his wife received unusually extensive state media coverage in Iran where scandals related to politicians rarely appear on television (AFP Photo/Meghdad Madadi)

Tehran (AFP) - Former Tehran mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering his wife, the judiciary said Tuesday, after a high-profile case that received extensive media coverage.

A prominent reformist, Najafi was found guilty of shooting dead his second wife Mitra Ostad at their home in the capital on May 28, said Iran's judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

According to Iranian media reports, her body was found in a bathtub after Najafi, 67, turned himself in and confessed to killing her.

"The charge sheet included premeditated murder, battery and possession of an illegal firearm," Esmaili said, quoted by the judiciary's official news agency Mizan Online.

"The court has established premeditated murder and passed the execution sentence," he added.

Najafi was acquitted of the battery charge but received a two-year jail sentence for possessing the illegal firearm, the spokesman said without elaborating.

His lawyer said he would appeal the sentence.

"We hope the supreme court accepts our concerns and helps justice to be served by rejecting the verdict," ISNA news agency quoted Hamid Goudarzi as saying.

Ostad's family had appealed for the Islamic law of retribution to be applied -- an "eye for an eye" form of punishment which would see the death penalty served in this instance.

Najafi's trial received detailed coverage in state media where scandals related to politicians rarely appear on television.

A mathematician, professor and veteran politician, Najafi had previously served as President Hassan Rouhani's economic adviser and education minister.

He was elected Tehran mayor in August 2017, but resigned the following April after facing criticism from conservatives for attending a dance performed by schoolgirls.

Najafi married Ostad without divorcing his first wife, unusual in Iran where polygamy is legal but socially frowned upon.

Some of Iran's ultra-conservatives said the case showed the "moral bankruptcy" of reformists, while reformists accused the conservative-dominated state television of bias in its coverage and highlighting the case for political ends.