German court rules Iranian leaders ordered Berlin slayings
Countries expel each other's diplomats
April 10, 1997
Web posted at: 5:57 p.m. EDT (2157 GMT)
BERLIN (CNN) -- A German court's finding that top Iranian
officials ordered the 1992 murders of four Kurdish dissidents
triggered a diplomatic tit-for-tat Thursday in which the two
countries expelled each other's diplomats.
German judges convicted two men of murder and two others of
being accessories to murder in the September 17, 1992,
deaths of Iranian-Kurdish leader Sadiq Sarafkindi and three
of his colleagues in a Berlin restaurant.
The court found that the assassinations were ordered by the
"highest state levels" in Iran.
||CNN's Jackie Shymanski reports:|
(128K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The ruling shook German-Iranian relations. Germany announced
it was recalling its ambassador from Tehran and expelling
four Iranian diplomats.
The Iranian government, which denies having any role in the
slayings, retaliated by pulling its ambassador from Bonn. The
Iranian news agency IRNA later announced that four German
diplomats would be ordered out of Iran.
Europeans rethinking Iranian policy
European Union officials met in Brussels to discuss recalling
their ambassadors and possibly ending their two-track policy
of doing business with Iran while discussing issues of
terrorism and human rights -- a policy opposed by the United
The German Foreign Ministry announced that its policy of
"critical dialogue" with Iran would be suspended for the
foreseeable future. Germany is Iran's biggest Western trading
partner, with between $1 billion and $2 billion worth of
investments in Iran. About 500 German citizens live in Iran.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns
hailed the court's verdict as proof that Iran is a terrorist
state. He called on European governments to "choke off trade
"The 'critical dialogue' has not succeeded in moderating
Iran's behavior," Burns said.
Judges said assassins were following orders
The Berlin judges found Kazem Darabi, an Iranian who worked
as a grocer in Berlin, and a Lebanese man, Abbas Rhayel,
guilty of murder and sentenced them to life in prison.
Two other Lebanese men, Youssef Amin and Mohamed Atris, were
convicted of being accessories to murder. Amin was given 11
years in prison, and Atris got five years and three months.
The fifth defendant, Atallah Ayad, also Lebanese, was
Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said the four men found
guilty of the murders had no personal motive but were instead
following orders. Without naming names, Kubsch said the
gangland-style murders had been ordered by Iran's Committee
for Special Operations, to which Iran's president and
spiritual leader belonged.
Prosecutors had contended that Iran's powerful spiritual
leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President Hashemi
Rafsanjani had personally ordered the killings. Germany has
issued an arrest warrant for Iran's minister of intelligence
in connection with the crime.
Iranian dissidents cheer
In the wake of the verdict, German fears of a terrorist
attack or other Iranian retribution were clear. In
preparation for possible retributions, security around the
Berlin courtroom was tightened.
The German government has also warned its citizens against
traveling to Iran unless absolutely necessary, and it advised
all German citizens in Iran to stay in close contact with the
German embassy in Tehran.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Iranian dissidents, who arrived early
Thursday morning for the trial's outcome, danced euphorically
when the verdict was read. Carrying huge banners, they
celebrated, cheered and played music in the streets.
Leaders of the Iranian opposition said they still wanted a
better guarantee that Germany would drop its "critical
"There is now absolutely no justification for the
continuation of the 'critical dialogue' policy and for the
appeasement of this regime," said Massoud Radjavi, chairman
of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
But one prominent Bonn politician, Free Democrat deputy
Juergen Moellemann, said Germany should now intensify its
dialogue with Tehran rather than give it up.
"A Berlin judge cannot decide how we organize our relations
with countries around the world," he said. "If there are
problems, one should actually intensify the dialogue."
Correspondent Jackie Shymanski contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.