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Iranian police issue account of German's murder amid mounting

TEHRAN, Feb 15 (AFP) - Iranian police issued a detailed account Monday of the murder of a German businessman following mounting criticism of the authorities' handling of the affair and suggestions that "invisible hands" were behind it.

Police insisted a lone fugitive from justice was reponsible for Saturday's murder of the former Tehran representative of Deutsche Bank, Heinrich Lambert Heimes.

They said the lone gunman abducted Heimes from a German diplomatic car to use him as a hostage.

The gunman kept the businessman with him after opening fire on police and wounding one of them, and after then swapping the embassy Toyota for another car, the statement said.

Police insisted the gunman killed his hostage before the final firefight with police in which he was killed, contradicting the German foreign ministry's insistence that Heimes too was killed in the final exchange of fire.

Otherwise the police account was substantially the same as one published in an evening newspaper close to the conservative dominated judiciary the previous day.

Police said the gunman, Mohammad-Agha Ziarati-Farahani, 24, had gone on a killing spree after his fiancee's family refused to give him permission to marry their daughter and had already killed two people before abducting Heimes.

The police statement followed a second day of criticism in the Tehran press and open questioning of the official accounts of the German's killing.

"Our law enforcement and foreign ministry spokespersons should take a lesson from what can only be described as massive public doubt about the various pronouncements," said an editorial in the government newspaper Iran Daily.

"Unanswered questions abound" about Saturday's murder, the paper said.

"Is there any wonder Iranians met the news of the German banker's death with knowing if uninformed nods," the paper asked, referring to press suggestions the previous day that the killing was the work not of a lone criminal as officials claimed but of "invisible hands" seeking to sabotage the "long-awaited expansion of relations" with Bonn.

"The prime reason such rumours are travelling at such high velocity ... is that they come in the midst of what appears to be another wave of premeditated political violence," the paper said.

"The same types of action in the last half of 1998 ended in the string of six assassinations associated with elements from the (intelligence) ministry."

In a shock admission last month, the intelligence ministry acknowledged that a spate of killings of dissidents here late last year involved "rogue" agents, prompting the resignation this month of conservative Intelligence Minister Dorri-Najafabadi.


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