The trial came on the heels of the gruesome and high profile assassination of four Iranian opposition leaders on the evening of September 17, 1992 at the little-known Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin. The chairman of Iran’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan and two of his top associates who had come to Germany to attend the annual Conference of the Social Democratic Party were among the dead. What started as a peaceful dinner came to a sudden halt when two darkly clad men with machine guns burst through the restaurant’s entrance and opened fire on the guests. In the aftermath of the shooting, Germany’s morning papers implicated connections to the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. Others suspected a Kurdish rival group. What neither the press nor the lawyers who began investigating the case knew at the time was that these dead men were not the only ones. Since 1980, over one hundred Iranian exiles had disappeared, or been assassinated throughout the US, Europe and elsewhere. For Western politicians who were negotiating with Tehran to boost trade and advance their careers, pursuing rumors of secret terror campaigns against exiles was seen as inconvenient. Thus, these cases remained “open” and their murders treated as mysteries. The victims’ families feared that the Mykonos trial would be no exception.
Hours later, an unassuming and incorruptible federal prosecutor, Bruno Jost, arrived at the scene and charted his own independent investigation, despite all rumors and threats. What followed was an investigation, trial, and a judgment that shook both Europe and Iran, and which has been called one of the most significant European trials since the Nuremberg trial of World War II, a trial which ultimately achieved something few could have predicted—justice.
The trial, as recounted in the acclaimed non-fiction book ASSASSINS OF THE TURQUOISE PALACE, forced Tehran to cease its terror operations against Iranian dissidents in Europe. The landmark verdict in 1997, culminating in the shut down of all EU member embassies in Tehran, is an essential reminder that justice and rule of law can be more effective than bombs to end the belligerence of a tyrannical state.
The Federal Bar Association’s awards event in New York will explore the Mykonos case’s implications for relations with Iran today. The event will feature discussion panelists Roya Hakakian, author of the 2011 acclaimed non-fiction book documenting the case, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, and J.D. Bindenagel, former U.S. Ambassador and Director of Central European Affairs for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The discussion will be moderated by U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert of the Eastern District of New York. Opening remarks will be given by Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska of the Southern District of New York.
The awards event, entitled Upholding the Rule of Law in Germany’s Federal Republic—The Mykonos Case, will begin promptly on February 25th at 5:30 p.m. at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, located at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan, and will end at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free but space is limited. To secure seating, RSVP to Erin Rodgers, Federal Bar Association, (517) 481-9118 or firstname.lastname@example.org, as soon as possible. A valid photo ID is required for Courthouse entry.
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