The former gardener of renowned Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui and his wife, Vahideh Mohammadifar, an accomplished screenwriter, has been named by the Alborz chief justice as a suspect in the couple’s brutal murder. Mehrjui and his wife were knifed to death on October 14 in their home.
Iran’s Mizan news agency has meanwhile released a video reconstructing the murder scene. The footage presents three individuals as alleged perpetrators of the crime.
Hossein Fazli Harikandi, Chief Justice of Alborz Province, also claimed that the motive behind the murder is believed to be revenge over financial disputes and a claimed debt of 30 million tomans ($600).
Harikandi also said that a total of 20 individuals were initially apprehended as possible suspects. Three individuals emerged as prime suspects after interrogations. The individuals later also confessed to the involvement of a fourth person in the murder.
Facts around the double murders have been buffeted by conflicting statements from various security and judicial institutions.
Harikandi has pointed out that four individuals were present at the crime scene on the night of the incident. The fourth person possessed a knife, the murder weapon, and stolen mobile phones. The apprehension of this individual proved pivotal in advancing the investigation by providing critical evidence.
The prosecutor also underscored factors such as the low height of a wall and an open entrance to the building – facilitating the assailants' entry and the subsequent knife attack.
A chilling video, republished in Iran's state-run media under the title "Reconstruction of the Murder Scene," features the alleged perpetrator describing how he struck Mehrjui on the head four times with a blunt object before stabbing him.
The Alborz prosecutor told Mizan news agency that the case is currently under review in his office. Following an indictment, the case will be forwarded to the court, with further details expected to be unveiled.
Many Iranian artists and filmmakers have meanwhile called for official transparency in the case amid growing public concern and interest in the high-profile case. They are demanding answers regarding the murders of the prominent director and his wife.
But a spokesperson for the police, under the mandate of the Ministry of Interior, has declared that all information related to the case should be confined to the judiciary.
Saeed Montazer-al-Mahdi stated that every relevant document linked to the murder of Mehrjui and Mohammadifar has been handed over to the judicial system.
"As of Thursday, October 19, the Ministry of Interior ruled that all information concerning this case will be published exclusively through judicial channels," he said.
The reconstruction of the crime scene was carried out under stringent security measures, in Zibashahr, at the residence where the incident took place.
No reporters or media personnel were allowed to be present except for a designated state television reporter.
The justice system and due process in Iran is seriously flawed, according to many observers and activists inside and outside the country, with suspects being routinely forced to “confess” to crimes they did not commit and facing show trials without access to lawyers.
Mehrjui was renowned as one of the founders of Iran’s new wave of realistic films in the 1970s while Mohammadifar was a screenwriter and costume designer.
The slaying of Mehrjui and his wife has caused shock and outrage among Iranians, with many of them drawing parallels with political assassinations that rocked the country in previous past decades.
The 83-year-old Mehrjui and Vahideh Mohammadifar were stabbed to death over the weekend in their home in Karaj, near Tehran. Their October 18 funeral was attended by many of the country's most well-known artists.
Slogans such as "Women, Life, Freedom" and "Murderers, murderers should be disgraced" were chanted, highlighting the grief and defiance running through the crowd.