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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

governments and the United States.102 In this position he was involved in freeing Rudolf Cordes, a West German hostage seized in Beirut by the Shi’ite group Holy Strugglers for Freedom in January 1987 and held until September 1988. He also met former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, French President François Mitterand and a former French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas.

In November 1988, after meeting with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Mesbahi came back to Iran only to be confronted with accusations that he was a double-agent. He was arrested but released from prison after only three months. He remained under house arrest for another year and half. Having been dismissed from the Ministry of Intelligence, he started a private business to support himself. On March 19, 1996 Mesbahi was warned by Ali Fallahian’s deputy, Saeed Emami, that the Special Affairs Committee had ordered his assassination.103 He left Iran for Pakistan on April 18, 1996. After making contact with former Iranian President Abdolhassan Banisadr he moved to Germany where he was granted political asylum.

Mesbahi had personal experience working in the field as an Iranian Intelligence officer when Ayatollah Khomeini directed assassination operations. As a result, he was able to brief the Berlin Court in some detail about the modus operandi used by Iranian operatives, which he believed had not changed much since Ayatollah Khomeini’s day. Mesbahi also shared with the court specific information about the Mykonos operation that he had learned from five different sources inside Iran.104 It was Mesbahi who revealed that the Special Affairs Committee had considered different assassination strategies for targeting the leaders of the PDKI in Germany and that Asghar Arshad and Ali Kamali, the two high-ranking agents of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence, had been sent to Germany in June 1992 to assess the feasibility of mounting an attack in the Federal Republic.

Mesbahi had learned much of what he knew about the Mykonos operation directly from Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi, who he met through a mutual friend. He told the court that Banihashemi had mentioned to him that the operation was codenamed “Faryad Bozorg Alawi.”105 This can be roughly translated as the “the outcry of the Shiite religious leader.”106

Mesbahi’s testimony was supported by other witnesses. Both Professor Udo Steinbach107 and Professor Heinz Halm,108 prominent German Middle East experts, agreed that the IRI had an established program which sought the elimination of Iranian dissidents. Paris assistant district attorney Patrick Lalande, who had direct experience of investigating such activities, told the court:

The Iranians are extraordinarily determined in their efforts to assassinate members of their opposition abroad. They will tell you that they treat their opponents abroad just as they treat them at home and that this is a purely domestic affair.109

[102]Witness statement of Abolghassem Mesbahi (witness C) on Sep. 25, 1996. SYSTEM-I JINAYATKAR:ASNAD-I DADGAH-I MIKUNUS [Criminal System: Documents of the Mykonos Case] 166 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[103]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] 171 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[104]Witness statement of Abolghassem Mesbahi (witness C) on Sep. 27, 1996. SYSTEM-I JINAYATKAR:ASNAD-I DADGAH-I MIKUNUS [Criminal System: Documents of the Mykonos Case] 183-86 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[105]After the assassinations, the BfV discovered the codename and were able to verify Mesbahi’s testimony. Mykonos Judgment, supra note 27, at 135 and 331-33.
[106]Mesbahi explained the code word by word: Alavi as synonym to Shiite, Bozorg in here means the religious leader, Khamenei, and Faryad means shouting or outcrying. 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] 177 (Mihran Payandih et al. trans. 2000).
[107]Professor Udo Steinbach is the director of the German Institute for Middle East Studies in Hamburg and has traveled frequently to Iran to study the development of Iran into the Islamic Republic. Mykonos Judgment, supra note 27, at 334.
[108]A leading German Islamist and a specialist in Ismaili studies, Dr. Heinz Halm is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Tübingen. Mykonos Judgment, supra note 27, at 334.
[109]William Drozdiak, German Court: Tehran Ordered Exile Killings, THE WASH. POST, April 11, 1997 at A1.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom