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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

5.7. The Judgment

The Berlin Court of Appeal finally issued its judgment on April 10, 1997. Kazem Darabi was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judgment noted: “Darabi… organized the killings for the Iranian secret service. He knew the goal and willingly participated in the destruction of four human lives.”124 Abbas Hossein Rhayel was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The court found Rhayel guilty of firing at least some of the fatal shots.125 Youssef Mohamad El-Sayed Amin was found guilty as an accessory to the four murders and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.126 Mohammad Atris was also convicted of being an accessory to the murders and was sentenced to 5 years and three months.127 Ataollah Ayad was acquitted and released after being remanded in custody pending trial for four years.128

The Court found that the motives of the accused were political, because they advocated a fundamentalist regime in Iran and were ready to support their cause by murdering opposition leaders.129 In his 395-page decision, the presiding Judge, Frithjof Kubsch, pointedly noted that the trial had proved “Iran’s political leadership ordered the crime.”130 Kubsch did not identify any Iranian officials by name, but he noted that witness testimony and other evidence showed that Iran’s Special Affairs Committee had ordered the murders, and that the supreme leader, president, foreign minister and intelligence minister were all active members of that committee:

The previous statements make it clear, that the assassination of the leaders of the DPK-I (PDKI) under Dr. Sharafkandi, was neither the act of individuals, nor caused by conflicts within the opposition groups themselves. Rather, the assassination is the result of the work of the rulers in Iran.
The accused … had neither personal relationships with the victims nor any other interest that would lead to an independent resolution to plan such an act. Even Darabi would, due to his intelligence connections and his subordination to the political interests of the regime, not plan an assassination without an appropriate order, and because of logistical reasons, he would not even have been able to carry one out without outside help.
The evidence makes it clear that the Iranian rulers, not only approve of assassinations abroad and that they honor and reward the assassins, but that they themselves plan these kinds of assassinations against people who, for purely political reasons, become undesirable. For the sake of preserving their power, they are willing to liquidate their political opponents. 131

Consequently, without naming them, Kubsch implicated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian:

The political leaders of Iran gave the order for the murders, for the sole purpose of staying in power. Those who issued the orders and pulled the strings were Iranian state functionaries.132

For the first time in German legal history, a higher court had clearly assigned responsibility to another state in a murder trial.133 Germany withdrew its ambassador from Tehran and encouraged other EU nations to do the same. As a gesture of solidarity with Germany, fourteen EU countries suspended

[124]Mykonos Judgment, supra note 27, at 385.
[125]Id. at 375.
[126]Id. at 386.
[127]Id. at 390.
[128]Id. at 3-4.
[129]Id. at 375.
[130]CNN Worldview: Germany Isolates Iran After Accusing Leaders of Killings (CNN television broadcast, Apr. 10, 1997).
[131]Mykonos Judgment, supra note 27, at 368-70.
[132]Mary Williams Walsh, German Court Finds Iran’s Leaders Ordered Slayings, THE L.A. TIMES, April 11, 1997, at A1.
[133]SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG (April 11 1997).

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom