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Police yesterday arrested the son of Nazareth's deputy mayor on suspicion he shot his wife dead.

The man, Basel Salam, denies that he shot his wife Hala, and allegedly told police that an unlicensed pistol found at the family home went off by accident.

Nazareth magistrate Doron Porat remanded him for eight days and turned down a request to allow him to attend his wife's funeral saying that Salam's version of events was at odds with initial police findings.

"The suspect's account does not so far correspond to the evidence," Porat said.

Police are looking into reports that Hala may have had an argument with her husband or one of his male relatives a few weeks ago at the school where she taught, although they say the couple has no record of domestic violence.

Salam's attorney, Fahim Daud, confirmed that the victim and Salam's brother had quarreled a few weeks ago, but said that things had since been resolved and the couple were on good terms.

Police said a relative had phoned in the the report of a shooting in the family compound in the Jebel Doli neighborhood of Nazareth.

A patrol car dispatched to the scene found family members gathered near the home and the suspect inside the house.

During a search of the home they found the handgun allegedly used in the shooting.

The victim's body was sent to the Abu Kabir Institute for Forensic Medicine for an autopsy.

The couple has three children, ages 7, 5 and 2 years. The youngest child, a girl, shares a bedroom with her parents and was reportedly present when the shooting occured.

Attorney Daud said his client was in shock.

"This is his beloved wife," he said. "The mother of his children."

The couple lived in the same family compound where the suspect's father, deputy mayor, Ali Salam, lives.

Daud said the father had been threatened a number of times over the past few months, shots had been fired at the compound and Basel Salam had acquired a gun for self-defense.

"Public figures in Nazareth have been attacked recently, including a hand grenade thrown at the home of Nazareth's mayor Ramiz Jaraisy," he said. "Basil, in fear, went out and got a gun."

The lawyer said that Basel Salam was putting the gun down before going to bed when it went off by accident.

"He was not in the army or the police and is not trained to handle a gun," Daud said."That is what happens when a person doesn't know how to use a weapon. In the end, Basel is also a victim of violence."

Police Chief Superintendent Avi Elgrisi contested that account.

"The findings the police have show a picture different than what the suspect claims," but added that neither the police nor welfare authorities had been aware of any previous instances of family violence and the motive for murder was so far unknown.

The day before the shooting Deputy-Mayor Ali Salam took part in a march protesting violence against women in Arab society.