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."
"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
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."
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
"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
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
In reaction to the case, EU governments withdrew their
ambassadors from Tehran and dropped their "constructive engagement" policy with
the Islamic regime.
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.
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
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 United
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
For Darabi, though, all of that means little now.
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."
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.)