Tehran, 7 August (AKI) – Judicial authorities in the Iranian city of Qom have placed the country’s former president Mohammad Khatami under investigation for allegedly shaking hands with women – a taboo gesture for Islamists – during a visit to Italy in May. The Tribunal of the Clergy in Qom, a holy city for Shiite Muslims, took the decision after several talabeh, or religious students pressed charges related to the incident against Khatami. Video footage showing Khatami, himself a cleric, shaking hands with several women including two Italian grappa heiresses, has provoked controversy in Iran since it appeared on the Internet. The footage was allegedly shot when the former president on 12 May visited Udine, in northeastern Italy to participate in a seminar on dialogue between cultures. Khatami’s office has since said that the footage had either been edited to give a false impression, or else Khatami had shaken the hands of people in a crowd without realising they were female. But the man who filmed the scene, Marco Orioles, in an earlier interview told Adnkronos International (AKI) the footage was authentic and had not been tampered with. At the time, the Iranian hardline daily Kayhan suggested Khatami, a moderate cleric who was president of Iran from 1997 until 2005, had allowed himself to fall prey of a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) trap. If the Qom tribunal decides to order Khatami to stand trial, and if he is found guilty, he could be stripped of his status as a cleric.