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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

diplomatic relations with Iran, as did New Zealand and Australia,134 but most missions returned to Tehran within the month.135

The Iranian government made its displeasure with the judgment very clear. Demonstrations of varying size occurred in Tehran and Qom over the course of several days.136 President Rafsanjani, speaking during a Friday sermon said that the judgment was political and predicted that it would go down in history as being “shameless.” He stated that Germany had “broken the hearts of millions,” and that “the judgment will neither be forgotten easily nor remain unanswered.” He continued to threaten somewhat ambiguously that Germany would “lose its privileges” in Iran.137

Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the German government in Bonn for the judgment and commented that Germany had lost the trust of the Iranian people.138 When the German ambassador finally sought to return to Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei gave the foreign ministry specific instructions to refuse the ambassador accreditation, insisting that the German government had perniciously accused Iran of a crime it had not committed. 139

6. Conclusion

The Islamic Republic of Iran has long been committed to eradicating centers of political opposition to the regime both at home and abroad. Between 1979 and 1996, the leadership of the Islamic Republic ordered a series of high profile political assassinations, many of which occurred in Western Europe. After Ayatollah Khomeini’s death in 1989, the responsibility for directing this campaign was assumed by the Special Affairs Committee headed by Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Operational responsibility for carrying out the Special Affairs Committee’s instructions fell to the Special Operations Council of the Ministry of Intelligence.

The Mykonos case provides the best insight to date into Iran’s campaign of overseas assassinations. The operation vividly illustrates Iran’s use of terrorist proxies to pursue its targets where its own local resources are lacking. The plan was both cheap and effective. The modus operandi used by the Mykonos team limited the exposure of the Ministry of Intelligence assets but made little attempt to disguise the origins of the operation or mislead investigators. No attempt was made to remove the serial numbers from the weapons used in the attack nor was any serious attempt made to dispose of them so that they could not be traced back to Iran. This suggests that the IRI may have seen some advantage in confirming to the opposition community that it was behind the attacks.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Mykonos episode is the unwavering hostility the IRI demonstrated towards the PDKI. Dr. Sharafkandi was the second leader of the PDKI to be murdered in a European city in three years. In all, IHRDC is aware of dozens of rank and file members of the PDKI killed by the Iranian regime outside its borders, mostly in Iraq. The calm professionalism of the Mykonos killers is emblematic of the ruthlessness with which the Islamic Republic has consistently sought to counter its political opponents.

[134]Iran Droht mit Konsequenzen, DIE WELT (April 12, 1997).
[135]Konter aus Europa, FOCUS, at 390 19/1997.
[136]Guzarish-i Nukhustin Vakunishhayih Dakhili va Baynulmillali Alayhih Janjal-i Mykonos; Alman dar Tirras-i Khashm va I'tiraz-i Jahan-i Islam [Report of the First Domestic and International Reactions Against the Mykonos Ruckus; Germany is Vulnerable to Anger and Protest of the Muslim World] KAYHAN (Tehran), No. 15903, Farvardin 23, 1376 (April 12, 1997) Khashm va Nifrat-i Mardum-i Iran Az Ra'y-i Siyasiyyih Dadgah-i Berlin Bah Rahpiyma'i Bih Suyih Sifarat-i Alman Surat Girift [Anger and Hatred of the People of Iran was Expressed by Way of a Demonstration Towards the German Embassy] and Bah Anjam-i Yik Rahpiyma'i Ba Shukuh, Mardum-i Qom, Siyasathayih Alman Ra Alayhih Iran Mahkum Kardand [citizens of Qom condemned Germany's Policies towards Iran with a glorious Demonstration] ETTELA'AT (Tehran), No. 21023, Farvardin 23, 1376 (April 12, 1997).
[137]Irans Präsident droht Deutschland, FRANFURTER RUNSCHAU, at 2 (April 12 1997). See also Tahlil-i Ra'is Jumhuri Az Bunbast-i Muzakirat-i Sazish-i Khavar-i Miyanih Va Tasir-i An Dar Ray-i Dadghah-i Mykonos [The President's Analysis of the Fruitless Middle East Discussions and Its Effects on the Mykonos Judgment], ETTELA'AT (Tehran), No. 29023, Farvardin 23, 1376 (April 12, 1997).
[138]Chamenei gibt Bonn Schuld an Mykonos-Krise , BERLINER ZEITUNG (April 17, 1997)
[139]Konter aus Europa, FOCUS, at 390 19/1997.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom