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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germans Expel Iranians After Verdict

BERLIN -- A German court ruled Thursday that Iran's top leaders were behind the assassination of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition figure in Berlin, shaking the foundations of Germany's policy of close ties and continued trade with the Tehran regime.

Within hours, Bonn recalled its ambassador to Iran and ordered the expulsion of four Iranian diplomats. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the verdict indicated "a flagrant breach of international law'' by Iran.

The judges convicted two men of murder and two of being accessories to murder in the Sept. 17, 1992 killing of Kurdish leader Sadiq Sarafkindi and three of his colleagues in the Mykonos restaurant.

Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said, however, that the men acted not on their own, but on orders from Tehran. "The Iranian political leadership is responsible,'' he said, adding that its goal was to eliminate political dissidents.

The trial had drawn international attention as possibly the first in the West where a court considered charges that Iranian leaders directed the killings of dissidents abroad.

Prosecutors contended that Iran's powerful spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani had personally ordered the killings, which were then implemented by Iran's intelligence chief, Ali Fallahiyan. The allegations, first made last fall, set off days of anti-German street protests in Iran.

Bernd Schmidbauer, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's intelligence adviser, had testified that Fallahiyan had sought to block the trial during a 1993 visit to Kohl's office in Bonn. Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him in March 1996.

The judges found that Fallahiyan hired Kazem Darabi, an Iranian who worked as a greengrocer in Berlin and was known to German authorities as a secret agent.

Darabi and a Lebanese man, Abbas Rhayel, were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Two other Lebanese, Youssef Amin and Mohamed Atris, were convicted of being accessories to murder. Amin was given 11 years and Atris five years and three months.

On Thursday, Iran's state-run media either ignored the verdict completely or skipped the court's charges against Iran's top leaders.

While Washington has sought to isolate Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, Germany and other European Union countries have for years pursued a "critical dialogue'' policy, continuing to do business with Iran while discussing issues of terrorism and human rights.

The Foreign Ministry said Germany will "not participate for the foreseeable future'' in that policy, and said it was in close contact with its EU partners. It was unclear what the impact of the decision would be.