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Iran’s envoy to Germany returns home, media criticizes EU

April 12, 1997

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Iran’s ambassador to Germany arrived home today, summoned in the political fallout from a Berlin court ruling that Iranian leaders are to blame for the murder of exiled dissidents.

Iran recalled Hossein Moussavian after every European Union country except Greece withdrew its ambassador from Iran in response to the ruling Thursday.

The German judges convicted four men of the 1992 slayings of Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. They said Iranian leaders were behind the killings. Iran has denied involvement.

Tehran’s Farsi-language newspapers, reporting the verdict for the first time today, made no mention of the court’s condemnation of Iran’s top leaders. The news was reported in full only in the less read English-language papers.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said another protest was planned Sunday at the German Embassy in Tehran. On Friday, thousands gathered outside the embassy, where they chanted slogans and burned U.S. and Israeli flags.

The Tehran protests recall similar state-run rallies in November, when the Berlin court first implicated Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hashemi Rafsanjani in the 1992 murders. Protesters then pelted the embassy with rotten tomatoes.

In its verdict Thursday, the court said the orders came from Iran’s top leaders, but did not name them.

It found Kazem Darabi, an Iranian who worked as a grocer in Berlin, and a Lebanese man, Abbas Rhayel, guilty of the Sept. 17, 1992, killing of Iranian Kurdish leader Sadiq Sharafkindi and three colleagues in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin.

Both men were sentenced to life in prison. Two other Lebanese _ Youssef Amin and Mohamed Atris _ were convicted of being accomplices. Amin was sentenced to 11 years in jail. Atris was given five years and three months.

A fifth defendant, Lebanese Atallah Ayad, was acquitted.

In a speech at Tehran University on Friday, Rafsanjani said the EU action was a ``passing storm″ similar to the action taken by the Europeans in 1989. That was when the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie, accusing him of insulting Islam in his novel ``The Satanic Verses.″

Khomeini’s fatwa, or religious edict, unleashed a storm of protests by the West. EU countries called home their ambassadors and Iran briefly severed diplomatic ties with Britain, which called the action ``an incitement to murder.″

Rafsanjani noted Friday that after a few months of protests over the Rushdie affair EU nations returned to business as usual with Iran.

The United States, which has long called Iran a rogue state and called for its isolation has welcomed the EU action.

Last year, Washington tightened existing sanctions against Iran, banning U.S. companies from trading with Tehran altogether. Europe is oil-rich Iran’s only source of advanced Western technology.

Germany and EU members had maintained a ``critical dialogue″ with Iran, arguing that it was the best way of bringing change in Iran’s hard line policies. Germany has said it will ``not participate for the foreseeable future″ in close ties with Iran.

Meanwhile in Iran, Tehran radio filled breaks between its regular programs today with quotes from Rafsanjani’s speech, in which he accused the United States and Israel of influencing the trial.

``Nation swept by wave of anger against Germany,″ screamed a banner headline in today’s Jomhuri Islami daily, which reported protests in several Iranian cities.

The daily Iran News, which is known to be guided by the Foreign Ministry, called the impasse with Europe ``the worst and deepest crisis between Iran and the European Union.

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