Indian politician charged over wife's death

New Delhi (AFP) –


A charismatic Indian opposition figure and former top UN official was charged Monday over the death of his wife, reigniting a mystery that shook the country's establishment.

Shashi Tharoor, 62, is accused of cruelty toward his wife Sunanda Pushkar and abetting her suicide in a five-star hotel room in 2014.

Delhi police said on Twitter they had now amassed enough forensic and other evidence to pursue the high-profile Congress party politician in court.

Tharoor has denied any involvement in Pushkar's death, calling the charges "preposterous" and vowing to fight "vigorously" against the allegations.

Pushkar was found dead two days after publicly accusing Tharoor, who served as under-secretary-general to Kofi Annan at the UN, of having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

She had been taking medication for various illnesses and early autopsy results suggested she may have overdosed on antidepressants and sleeping pills.

But a year later police said new medical reports had led investigators to treat the case as a murder, without naming any suspects.

The charge sheet filed in court Monday listed suicide as the cause of Pushkar's death -- something Tharoor has long rejected.

"No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever have committed suicide, let alone abetment on my part," he posted on Twitter.

The best-selling author and colourful orator also questioned the "methods and motivations" of Delhi police, suggesting a political vendetta was at play.

Tharoor was a cabinet minister at the time of Pushkar's death and rumours and publicity have engulfed the former junior foreign minister ever since.

He had been tipped to replace Annan as UN chief but the post went to Ban Ki-moon in 2007, after which Tharoor returned to India and entered politics as a member of parliament for the southern state of Kerala.

Tharoor had to resign from his first ministerial post in 2010 after revelations his then-girlfriend Pushkar was awarded a free stake in a new Indian Premier League cricket team.

His party Congress was heavily defeated in 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.