A former mayor of Tehran who once served as one of Iran’s vice presidents has been sentenced to death in the killing of his wife, state news outlets reported, in a case that has been closely watched in the country.
Mohammad Ali Najafi, 67, the former mayor and a prominent reformist politician, was arrested in May after turning himself in to the police. His case made waves after Iran’s state broadcaster showed footage of him at a Tehran police station, sipping tea and smiling with police officers as he confessed to killing his wife, Mitra Ostad, 35.
A spokesman for the judiciary said he had been convicted of murder and sentenced on Tuesday to “qisas,” a term meaning retaliation in kind — a decision handed down as part of the country’s Islamic judicial system, according to the semiofficial news outlet Tasnim.
Because Mr. Najafi’s wife was killed, that would amount to a death sentence in his case. His lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment, but they told Iranian news outlets that he would appeal the verdict.
Ms. Ostad was found dead in a bathtub in her apartment on May 28 after being shot several times. Within hours of her death, Mr. Najafi presented himself to the police and said her death had been an accident, according to state media reports.
The case, which was widely covered in Iran, set off a debate between reformists and the country’s governing conservatives. Some reformists said they believed that Mr. Najafi had been framed in a wide-ranging government plot.
He resigned as mayor last year, citing an unknown illness. But many believe that he was forced out by hard-line opponents after viewing a dance performance by schoolgirls. Mr. Najafi married Ms. Ostad months after he resigned.
The initial coverage of the killing raised questions over how Iranian news outlets report on issues of domestic violence. The weapon Mr. Najafi purportedly used to kill his wife and a white pillow with a hole stained by gunpowder residue were on display for parts of the trial.
At the time, the state broadcaster IRIB news showed footage of an interview with Mr. Najafi in which he is not handcuffed, and the police officers and reporter interviewing him appear to treat him with deference.
The former mayor implied that shooting his wife had been an accident, and he told the news outlet that he had suggested divorce several times, but his wife would not consent.
The reporter questioning him also appeared to handle the gun that was believed to be the murder weapon, showing it to the camera, and loading and unloading bullets from the weapon’s magazine. The footage spread quickly on social media, with many criticizing it as inappropriate.
Critics denounced the comfortable rapport between the police officers and Mr. Najafi and rebuked the news outlet for giving him a platform to explain away his role in Ms. Ostad’s death.
He told the news outlet he had brought the weapon to her house but “it was only meant to scare her.”
“I showed her it and said ‘Do you want to end this argument or not?’” he said, defending his actions. “She got flustered and basically tackled me.”