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Murder at Mykonos: Anatomy of a Political Assassination

2. Executive Summary

On September 17, 1992 agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) murdered three leading members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and one of their supporters in a private dining room at the Mykonos Restaurant in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, Germany. The attack was one of a series of assassinations sponsored by the Iranian government after the revolution of 1979 designed to intimidate and disrupt the activities of political opponents of the regime.

  • The Mykonos operation was authorized by the Islamic Republic’s powerful Special Affairs Committee, which at the time of the murders was headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and included President Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Minister of Intelligence Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. The Committee charged Hojjatoleslam Fallahian with superintending the operation.
  • The Mykonos operation was carried out by personnel from the Special Operations Council of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence and by freelance operators recruited by agents of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence in the field.
  • Hojjatoleslam Fallahian put Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi in charge of the Mykonos team. Banihashemi was assisted in Germany by a locally-based agent of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence called Kazem Darabi. Darabi recruited four Lebanese nationals resident in Germany - Youssef Mohamad El-Sayed Amin, Abbas Hossein Rhayel, Mohammad Atris, and Ataollah Ayad – known to him through their associations with either Hezbollah or Amal - to assist in the operation.
  • The primary targets of the Mykonos operation were Dr. Mohammad Sadegh Sharafkandi, the Secretary-General of the PDKI, Fatah Abdoli, the PDKI's European representative, and Homayoun Ardalan, the PDKI’s representative in Germany. Nourrollah Dehkordi, a friend of Dr. Sharafkandi, was also killed in the attack, and Aziz Ghaffari, the owner of the Mykonos restaurant, was wounded.
  • The actual killings were committed by Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi and Abbas Hossein Rhayel, an experienced Hezbollah operator, who administered the final shots to both Ardalan and Sharafkandi. Youssef Amin provided security for the assassins blocking the entrance to the restaurant for the duration of the attack. Farajollah Haidar drove the getaway car and an Iranian national known only as Mohammad kept the targets under surveillance prior to the attack.
  • Although Banihashemi, Haidar and Mohammad were successfully able to escape from Germany, most of the other immediate Mykonos conspirators were soon arrested. German prosecutors indicted Rhayel, Darabi and Amin each on four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Two other associates were indicted for aiding and abetting the attacks.
  • The Mykonos trial lasted three and a half years. The court met for a total of 246 sessions, heard 176 witnesses, accepted testimony from a former senior intelligence officer of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence, and considered documentary evidence varying from secret intelligence files to tapes of Iranian television broadcasts. Prosecutors successfully obtained convictions in four of the five cases. Rhayel and Darabi both received life sentences for their role in the attack.
  • The German authorities concluded that the Iranian government was “directly involved” in the Mykonos assassinations and in March 1996, Chief Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm took the unprecedented step of issuing an international arrest warrant for the Iranian Minister of Intelligence, Ali Fallahian. The warrant stated that Fallahian was strongly suspected of the murders. Further warrants were issued for two Tehran-based agents of the IRI Ministry of Intelligence who had played an early role in planning the Mykonos operation. All three men remain at large.
  • Outstanding arrest warrants also still exist for Abdol-Rahman Banihashemi and Haidar. Both men are currently believed to be residing safely in Iran.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom