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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

Upon receiving the assignment to eliminate the PDKI leadership, Hojjatoleslam Fallahian directed Mohammad Hadi Hadavi Moghaddam, an agent of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence responsible for gathering information on Kurdish opposition groups and who had contacts amongst the Kurdish diaspora, to gather information about the leaders of the PDKI.26 Moghaddam’s cover as the Director of the Samsam Kala Company, a front company for the IRI Ministry of Intelligence, enabled him to travel overseas and gather a large amount of information on the Iranian expatriate community without arousing suspicion. In the summer of 1991, Moghaddam traveled to Germany to gather intelligence on the activities of local Kurdish opposition activists. Subsequently he prepared a report and presented recommendations to Fallahian.27 Fallahian forwarded his findings to the Special Operations Council.28

In June 1992, two high-ranking agents of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence, Asghar Arshad and Ali Kamali, traveled to Germany.29 They were given the task of assessing the feasibility of undertaking assassinations in Germany.30 Fallahian put Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi in charge of undertaking the operation against the PDKI. Banihashemi was familiar with Europe and had proven his suitability for the assignment by leading the hit team that assassinated a former officer of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Colonel Ahmad Talebi, in Geneva, Switzerland on August 10, 1987.31

Once the decision was taken to target PDKI leaders in Germany, the Ministry of Intelligence sought out a local facilitator to provide logistical support for the operation. The local operative they selected was Kazem Darabi, a veteran of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who had been resident in Germany since 1980.32 Darabi held a leadership position in the Union of Islamic Student Associations of Europe (UISA) and had a history of violent activism against German-based opponents of the Islamic Republic. Darabi recruited four Lebanese accomplices - Youssef Mohamad El-Sayed Amin, Abbas Hossein Rhayel, Mohammad Atris, and Ataollah Ayad – who were known to him through their prior associations with Lebanese Shi’ite militia groups Hezbollah and Amal.

The final piece of the plan fell into place with the news that Dr. Mohammad Sharafkandi, Homayoun Ardalan, and Fatah Abdoli would arrive in Berlin on September 14, 1992, to participate in the Congress of the Socialist International.33 The Kurds intended to meet with other Iranian opposition leaders and activists living in Berlin on the evening of Thursday, September 17. The meeting would be held in the Mykonos Restaurant. This was the opportunity that the Ministry of Intelligence had been waiting for, and on or about September 7, 1992 Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi arrived in Berlin to take command of the Mykonos operation.

[26] Witness statement of Abolghassem Mesbahi (witness C) on Sep. 26, 1996. SYSTEM-I JINAYATKAR:ASNAD-I DADGAH-I MIKUNUS [Criminal System: Documents of the Mykonos Case] 173 and 178 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[27]Mykonos Urteil [Mykonos Judgment], Urteil des Kammergerichts Berlin vom 10. April 1997 [Judgement of the Court of Appeal of Berlin on April 10, 1997], OLGSt Berlin, (1) 2 StE 2/93 (19/93), at 22-23 available at: http://www.kammergericht.de/entscheidungen/Strafsenate/1_StE_19-93.pdf (hereinafter Mykonos Judgment).
[28] Witness statement of Abolghassem Mesbahi (witness C) on Sep. 26, 1996. SYSTEM-I JINAYATKAR:ASNAD-I DADGAH-I MIKUNUS [Criminal System: Documents of the Mykonos Case] 174 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[29] Id. at 174-75.
[30] Id. at 175.
[31] Witness statement of Abolghassem Mesbahi (witness C) on Sep. 26, and Oct. 10, 1996. SYSTEM-I JINAYATKAR:ASNAD-I DADGAH-I MIKUNUS [Criminal System: Documents of the Mykonos Case] 176 and 203 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[32] Memorandum from Grünewald, Official, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz [Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution], to Dr. Kurth, Federal Prosecutor, Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof [Chief Federal Prosecutor’s Office of the Federal High Court] at 2 (Apr. 22, 1993) [hereinafter Grünewald Memo] (on file with IHRDC).
[33] The delegates of the PDKI were in Berlin for a conference of “Sozialistischen Internationale” [Congress of the Socialist International], held from September 15th to the 17th, 1992. BERICHT, ABGEORDNETENHAUS VON BERLIN, DRUCKSACHE 12/5949 [Report, Lower House of Berlin, No. 12/5949], at 85 (1995) (hereinafter Lower House Report) (on file with IHRDC).

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom