PARIS (AP) _ A special anti-terrorism court handed down life sentences Friday to six Iranians tried in absentia for the 1991 assassination of former Iran Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar.
One of the six was a civil servant charged with complicity, the first time France has convicted an Iranian directly linked to the Islamic Republic, which is widely considered a sponsor of terrorism.
Bakhtiar’s assassins ``are on the highest rungs of power in Tehran,″ Francis Szpiner, the attorney for Bakhtiar’s widow, Shaintaj, told the seven-judge panel.
``Your verdict will not be without an echo tonight in Tehran, in the milieu of officialdom or the opposition,″ he said.
The brief trial followed the legal tradition in France of either acquitting or handing down a maximum sentence in cases where the defendants are at large.
The same court convicted two Iranians in November, including one of the assassins, Ali Vakili Rad, now serving a life sentence for the double murder of Bakhtiar and his secretary, Soroush Katibeh. Both were slashed to death in Bakhtiar’s villa in suburban Suresnes.
Bakhtiar was a noted exiled opponent of the Tehran regime. He had served as the last prime minister of Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, toppled by the Islamic revolution.
The prosecution said the assassination was a meticuously planned operation carried out by three men who received logistical help from six others.
A defendant who might have tied the Tehran government to the crime, an employee of Iran’s embassy in Bern, Switzerland, Seynalabedine Sarhadi, was acquitted of complicity in the November trial.
Hossein Sheikhattar, who worked for Iran’s Telecommunications Ministry, was convicted of complicity, along with Metsut Edipsoy, Gholam Hossein Shoorideh, and Nasser Ghasminejad.
Mohamed Azadi and Farydoun Boyerahmadi were convicted of murder for taking part in the slayings.
Massoud Hendi was convicted of complicity and given a 10-year prison term.