TEHRAN (Reuters) - In Italy the death of Fiat heir Edoardo Agnelli five years ago is viewed as a tragic suicide. In Iran, he is venerated as a martyr for Islam, supposedly murdered in a Zionist-orchestrated boardroom putsch.
On the fifth anniversary of his death, some 200 Iranian students gathered on Tuesday in a candlelit vigil outside the Italian embassy in Tehran, carrying placards reading 'No to the Zionist coup at Fiat' and chanting 'Death to Israel'.
'Edoardo was a martyr for Islam and was killed by the Zionists,' said Hamideh Taghizadeh, among a group of young women in all-enveloping black chadors, clasping posters of Agnelli.
His fall from a motorway viaduct in northwest Italy offers all the ingredients Iranians need in their conspiracy theories -- a heady mix of Judaism, family rivalries and ruthless big business.
The conspiracy runs as follows: after Agnelli converted to Shi'ite Islam, Israeli agents decided Fiat could not fall into such hands, murdered him and ensured the Elkann family, of Jewish origins, should run the carmaking dynasty.
Italian investigators found no suggestion his death was anything other than suicide.
Agnelli did have a strong interest in Shi'ite Islam, once visiting Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual father of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
But the graduate of oriental literature and philosophy was also interested in other religions and travelled widely in Asia and Africa.He never worked for the Turin-based car empire.
The Agnellis buried him in their Christian family tomb.
Mohammad Ghadiri Abianei, a diplomat who said he had known the Fiat heir during a posting in Rome, claimed Agnelli had converted to Islam and changed his name to Mehdi.
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