German court implicates Iran leaders in '92 killings
April 10, 1997
Web posted at: 10:25 a.m. EDT (1425 GMT)
In this story:
BERLIN (CNN) -- In a ruling expected to strain Germany's diplomatic relations with Iran, a German court Thursday
convicted four men in the 1992 murders of dissident
Iranian-Kurdish leaders in a Berlin restaurant and found that
the killings were ordered by the "highest state levels" in
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- CNN's Jackie Shymanski reports:
The 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.
A L S O
Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said the men had no personal
motive but were 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 said it was expelling four Iranian diplomatic staff. "The participation
of Iranian state agencies, as found in the court verdict, represents a flagrant
violation of international law," the German foreign ministry said in a statement.
Iranian speaker calls verdict 'political'
The verdict is sure to anger Iran's leadership, which has in
the past denied any responsibility for the assassination.
Speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri
Thursday dismissed the verdict as "political." He said the accusations
were untrue and demanded evidence.
"We have asked the German leadership many times if there is any evidence
and if so to present it to us," Nouri said. "But until now they haven't. The
trial had a political tinge."
The ruling is expected to sour relations between the two
countries. 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.
Until now, trade has encouraged the German government to hold
what it calls a "critical dialogue" with Iran, raising issues
of terrorism and human rights while continuing to do
business. Germany has maintained this policy despite
criticism from the United States, which has pursued an
isolationist policy with Iran.
The 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, Youssef Amin and Mohamed Atris, were
convicted of being accessories to murder. Amin was given 11
years and Atris five years and three months.
The fifth defendant, Atallah Ayad, also Lebanese, was
Iran, Germany recall ambassadors
Both Germany and Iran announced they were recalling their respective
ambassadors following the verdict.
The Iranian foreign ministry said it had recalled its ambassador to Germany for "certain consultations," Iranian state television said.
German officials were braced for post-trial consequences ranging from a diplomatic row to a terrorist attacks against German targets at home and abroad.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.
Pro and con on 'critical dialogue' policy
Leaders of the Iranian opposition said they still wanted a
better guarantee that Germany would review its critical
dialogue policy and drop it, following the lead of the United
States and other Western governments in cutting off contact
with a regime that sponsors state terrorism.
"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
controversial "critical 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."
Germany had already issued an arrest warrant for Iran's
minister of intelligence in connection with the crime.
Correspondent Jackie Shymanski
contributed to this report.
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