Days after Tehran’s former mayor turned himself in to police and said that he had shot his wife dead, his colleagues in the reformist camp appear to be spinning the story into one about her alleged connections with the feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The IRGC is aligned with the conservative wing of Iranian politics and its intelligence unit operates freely.
Mitra Ostad was shot accidentally, it is claimed, when she made a lunge to grab the gun her husband Mohammad Ali Najafi was holding as he followed her into the bathroom of their apartment in Tehran. Out of five shots fired, one is believed to have hit Ostad’s chest and another, her arm.
Reformists are accused of arguing that Ostad had been hired by the IRGC to lure Najafi into marriage and keep him under her direct control, lest he reveal “shocking” information about widespread financial corruption in the municipality of Tehran.
Najafi presented himself to police on May 28, hours after Ostad’s body was found – footage of his cordial reception, with tea, and no sign of handcuffs, made headlines around the world and shocked Iranians when it was broadcast by state TV.
Javad Emam, a high-profile reformist, has claimed that the 68-year-old had been lured him into marriage by Ostad, who was 35, “to keep him under control”.
Ostad was the second of Najafi’s two wives. Polygamy is legal in Iran but highly frowned upon – as the couple found when news of their marriage emerged last year.
Emam appears to have picked up on comments Najafi made last Tuesday on state TV – the broadcast of which at the preliminary stage of an investigation was itself unusual.
Najafi said: “A [state] institution used to monitor my phone calls, and relay the collected information to my [second] wife,”. He added: “I filed a complaint”.
Reformists appear to be hinting that Najafi has fallen victim to a well-planned plot by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
While in charge of running Tehran municipality, Najafi had threatened to reveal a series of financial irregularities during his predecessor, IRGC brigadier-general, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf’s term as the mayor, that pointed to corruption.
However, the threat never materialized and Najafi abruptly resigned.
Later, it was revealed that the mayor had secretly married Ostad, a former actress.
Pictures circulated on social media showing Najafi with his new wife in affectionate poses – a shocking development in conservative Iran.
A reformist, Behrooz Shojaei, published the screenshot of his phone messaging texts with Najafi, days after it was said that the former minister was alleged to have tried to kill himself.
Najafi maintained that “they” had plotted to poison him.
Apparent reformist efforts to spin the story, however, show no signs of having changed the widespread suspicion that Ostad was murdered.
The spokesman of the Islamic Judiciary, Gholam Hossein Esmaeili announced on Friday, May 31, that there was no evidence connecting the killing of Mitra Ostad with the IRGC intelligence.
Speaking to the state-run Iran Labor News Agency, Esmaeili said that the justice department is currently looking into the circumstances of the killing and will look into further issues later.
News agency Irna reported on Friday that the reconstruction of the “accident” was under way in the apartment in Armita Tower, in the affluent area of Sa’adat Abad in Tehran, where Ostad was killed.