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Iran halts mistress death verdict

13 February 08 16:44 GMT

An Iranian judge has quashed the conviction of a woman sentenced to death for murdering the wife of a former football star.

The judge said there had been flaws in the original investigation.

Khadijeh Shahla Jahed faced hanging after being convicted of stabbing Nasser Mohammadkhani's wife to death.

But it later emerged that Shahla Jahed had been living with Mr Mohammadkhani in Tehran under a temporary marriage, a practice allowed under Shia Islam.

The practice, known in Iran as sigheh, protected him from charges of adultery.

It allows Shia Muslims to take on temporary wives for periods ranging from a few hours to several decades. Khadijeh Shahla Jahed was found guilty of stabbing Laleh Saharkhizan, who was married to former international player and top coach Mr Mohammadkhani after a closed trial in 2004.

But the chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, ordered a fresh investigation, the Etemad newspaper said.

It quoted Ms Saharkhizan's sister saying the family did not believe Shahla Jahed's "claim to innocence".

"Laleh was a mother of two who was murdered in all innocence. Her murderer must be punished," the sister was quoted as saying.

Late-night calls

Mr Mohammadkhani, a top Iranian footballer in the late 1980s who later became coach for Tehran's Persepolis club, was in Germany on a training trip when the killing happened nearly six years ago.

During the trial, it was said that Shahla Jahed was a devoted fan of the player who had pursued him until he gave in to her advances.

The court heard that Mr Mohammadkhani led a double life, carrying on a four-year relationship with Shahla Jahed in an apartment in north Tehran while maintaining his marriage with Ms Saharkhizan.

Ms Saharkhizan's mother and sister told the court that she had received telephone calls at night from an anonymous woman who told her she did not deserve her life with Mr Khani.

After the murder, her body was found at home by her children, bearing several knife wounds.

Shahla Jahed was arrested the next day and refused to talk for nearly a year.

Mr Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on suspicion of complicity, but was released after his lover confessed that she had acted alone.

However, after the court heard that he had smoked opium with his mistress, he was sentenced to 74 lashes for drug-taking.

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