Iran found guilty of terrorism 1992 Berlin murders: Verdict supports U.S. and undermines German policy.

April 12, 1997

A GERMAN COURT has found the Iranian regime guilty of murders in Berlin. This supports the U.S. policy of seeking to isolate Tehran's clerical dictatorship as an outlaw regime sponsoring terrorism. The verdict undermines the German and European Union policy of "critical dialogue" and trade with that regime. The court's job was not to make policy but to find the truth. The German government finds the truth inconvenient but is acting on it.

The court found two men guilty of murder and two more of being accessories in the 1992 slaying of an Iranian Kurdish dissident and three associates in a Berlin restaurant. Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch ruled that the defendants were hired by Ali Fallahiyan, Iran's intelligence chief, on orders of a special operations committee whose members included Iran's president, religious leader, intelligence minister and head of foreign policy. Without using names, Judge Kubsch in effect pronounced Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, guilty of murder.

Iran still upholds the 1989 bounty on the India-born British writer, Salman Rushdie. That and the new verdict on the Berlin assassinations confirm the picture of a regime that bankrolls crime in other countries, violating their sovereignty. That's in character with its support of terrorism against Israel from bases in Lebanon. For once, a U.S. unilateral finding is vindicated abroad, if not by a foreign ministry then by a court of law.

Germany and Iran have withdrawn ambassadors; Germany ordered four Iranian diplomats out of the country and cautioned German citizens against traveling in Iran. Some 400 Germans live there. Germany is Iran's largest Western trading partner, doing $1.8 billion in annual trade. The European Union appeared to be following Germany's lead in ending the so-called dialogue, though trade was not ended. Iran, with oil and carpets for sale and economic unrest, needs trade more than Europe.

The government of mullahs in Tehran is a rogue regime. But the dispersion of educated Iranians fleeing its restraints, especially to southern California and to France, has weakened opposition within the country. Tehran has officially denied the finding. What the world requires is not that it vitiate its intolerant theocracy, but that it renounce its pretended right to conduct violence against perceived enemies abroad. Reform is required, not denial.

Pub Date: 4/12/97

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