Terrorist Freed In Germany Is
Welcomed By Tehran
Dec 12, 2007
There once was a well-known restaurant in central
Berlin called Mykonos. Its Greek fare was said to be
good, but it is now remembered for an altogether
different reason: on the site of the former
restaurant is a plaque -- to which Iranian President
Mahmud Ahmadinejad personally objected -- that lists
three Iranian-Kurdish leaders who were "murdered
[here in 1992] by the then-rulers of Iran. They died
fighting for freedom and human rights."
The infamous "Mykonos Operation," which shone an
unprecedented light on the Islamic republic's
campaign to assassinate critics in the Iranian-exile
community and sparked a diplomatic crisis between
Europe and Iran, is back in the headlines. Some 15
years after Iranian agents killed three top members
of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI)
and one of their supporters in a Berlin restaurant,
Germany on December 10 released and deported two of
the crime's masterminds.
One of them, Kazem Darabi, was greeted by senior
Foreign Ministry officials upon his return home.
Leading the welcome at Tehran's airport was Ali
Baqeri, the acting head of the Foreign Ministry's
Europe section, in what some say amounted to an
Iranian admission of complicity in a crime for which
the regime has long denied responsibility.
While Baqeri himself denied any such conclusion,
Shohreh Badei, a lawyer for the families of the
Mykonos victims, begged to differ.
Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Farda, she criticized
Germany for releasing Darabi and his Lebanese
accomplice, Abbas Rhayel, in what German media are
now speculating might be part of a planned prisoner
swap between Israel and Lebanon's Hizballah militia,
which is backed by Iran. Rhayel, reportedly a
Hizballah agent, was one of the convicted Mykonos
gunmen and was deported this week to Lebanon.
"It was just a deal for the sake of political and
economic gains," Badei says. "Two terrorists, who
have been so very loyal to the Iranian regime and
their policies, have been released so easily, 10
years ahead of time. It has angered all Iranians."
Mehdi Ebrahimzadeh was sitting at the same table in
the Mykonos restaurant with the four men who were
killed that day in September 1992. He realizes he is
lucky to be alive.
"I saw a very tall person -- taller than average --
about 180-185 centimeters, whose face was covered up
to his eyes," he says. "Only his forehead was
visible. He shouted some insulting words, probably
to get our attention. Then I noticed some rays of
light coming out of a handkerchief or cloth. Later I
realized that the rays actually were bullets coming
from his gun, which was wrapped in a sack."
Ebrahimzadeh said he also disagrees with the
decision by the German government to release the two
men. "Personally...I don't support vengeance," he
says. But "justice should be done, and justice
should be restored in a democratic way."
Iran's Assassination Program Exposed
After a trial that lasted 3 and 1/2 years, a German
court in 1997 concluded the Iranian government was
"directly involved" in the killings. Chief Federal
Prosecutor Kay Nehm issued an arrest warrant for
Iran's intelligence minister at the time, Ali
Fallahian, and said Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and
then-President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani had
knowledge of the crime. Other warrants were issued
for two Tehran-based agents of the same ministry.
In reaction to the case, EU governments withdrew
their ambassadors from Tehran and dropped their
"constructive engagement" policy with the Islamic
Darabi was identified as an agent of the ministry
based in Germany. He recruited four Lebanese
nationals, including Rhayel, to assist in the
operation, whose primary target was PDKI leader
Sadegh Sharafkandi, who had taken over the
Iranian-Kurdish party after the killing in Austria
of the previous PDKI head, Abdol-Rahman Ghassemlou.
According to court papers, the killers' final
preparations took place in the Berlin home of Darabi,
who had "organized these killings for the Iranian
secret intelligence. He was aware of the aim and had
intentionally taken part in the murder of those four
This plague commemorating the victims now stands at
the site (AFP)To be sure, Iranian officials have
been implicated in several other overseas terrorist
acts, including the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires
Jewish center that killed 85 people; the 1990
assassination of Kazem Rajavi, a professor, in
Switzerland; and Ghassemlou's killing in Vienna. But
the Mykonos case is widely seen as being the most
significant, according to the Iran Human Rights
Documentation Center, an organization based in the
That's because the trial brought out operational
details about Iran's program to silence its exiled
critics through a brutal program of overseas
assassinations. The trial also included
unprecedented testimony from a former high-ranking
Iranian intelligence officer with direct experience
in such operations. And the public release by German
authorities of important intelligence exposed Iran's
program of assassinations in Western Europe.
For Darabi, though, all of that means little now.
In comments carried by the state-run IRNA news
agency, Darabi said the decision to free him "proves
I am innocent." He denied any links to Iranian
intelligence or any other organization: "I was only
a member of the association of Muslim students in
Europe. It was for this reason that I was arrested."
He added that he intends to write a book in German.
"I have spoken with a number of German authors who
are going to come to Iran in the next months, and I
will write about this scandal from the beginning to
the end," he said. "And with evidence, facts, and
logic, I will prove to everyone that I was arrested
without any evidence and that I am innocent."
Nearly 10 years ago, a German court reached a
different verdict. It's still there for diners to
see at the former site of the Mykonos restaurant in
Berlin's Wilmersdorf's district: "They died fighting
for freedom and human rights."
(RFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this report.)