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Western Press Review: A New Synonym For Political Courage--Mykonos

  • Don Hill



Prague, 11 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- "There are still judges without fear or favor in Berlin," commentator Heribert Prantl trumpets today in the "Suddeutsche Zeitung," referring to the verdict yesterday of a high court in Berlin in the murder trial of Iranian terrorists who killed four dissident countrymen in Berlin's Mykonos Restaurant in 1992.

Other Western commentary scrutinizing the Mykonos decision achieves a broad consensus that the court's finding of Iranian government complicity was, first, an act of political courage by the young German prosecutors and the judges; second, a signal of root-changes in Europe-Iran relations; and, third, a vindication of U.S. policy.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: For the first time, a high court has held government leaders of another state responsible for murder

Prantl's commentary said: "The Berlin high court verdict in the Mykonos case will go down in legal history -- and not just in Germany. For the first time ever a high court ruling in a murder trial has held the government leaders of another state clearly and unmistakably responsible for a capital offence. The verdict is a victory for justice over political and economic interests.

"It is also a tremendous success for two young federal prosecutors, Bruno Jost and Ronald Georg. Without heed for the, at times, absent goodwill of their superiors in Karlsruhe and Bonn they steadfastly exposed what needed exposing -- the criminal rule of the Iranian leadership. By the logic of criminal proceedings this had to be so. Often, however, this logic ceases to apply when politics are involved."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The usual fictions concerning the Iranian regime can no longer be sustained

Karl Grobe comments today: "As yet the Friday prayers have not been spoken in Tehran, so the political line of the militant and other clerics has not been proclaimed from the pulpit. Yet the political business (today) in Iran will be conducted under a certain star -- the star of Mykonos."

He writes: "The murders of Sadegh Kharafkandi and three other Iranian politicians in exile who were attending the conference of the Socialist International is certainly not the only ones in which the clues lead to Teheran. However, they are the first of their kind in which investigation judicially established state responsibility for a multiple murder.

"After the Mykonos verdict the usual fictions concerning the Iranian regime can no longer be sustained. This is the exciting, liberatingly new aspect of the Berlin judges' verdict, as liberating as the proof of judicial independence in the face of pressure from interested parties outside and inside Germany."

GENERAL ANZEIGER: The panel did not let itself be influenced

Bonn's daily says -- "It is pleasing that the criminal panel, in its search for responsibility and guilt, did not let itself be influenced either by threats from Tehran or tactical maneuvers by the Bonn government."

BERLINER ZEITUNG: The trial is a shining example of justice

The daily says -- "The Mykonos trial is a shining example of independent justice far beyond the borders of Germany."

NEUE WESTFAELISCHE: There must be an end to Germany's fawning

The daily says -- "There must be an end to Germany's fawning. (The) Mykonos verdict explodes the illusion that Islamic fanatics can be influenced by rapprochement."

Some German commentary urged the Bonn government to maintain a flexible approach to Iran:

NEUE WESTFALISCHE: There does not have to be a complete break in relations

The daily says -- "Of course there are national interests that in adverse circumstances can sometimes only be protected in questionable ways. Therefore it does not have to come to a complete break between Bonn and Tehran."

DIE WELT: Relations with Iran should not be frozen

"In no case should (relations) be broken off or frozen in the longer term." "Die Welt" praised the European Union for inviting its members to withdraw their top diplomats from Tehran, but said they should all eventually return to Iran.



Analysis in the "Los Angeles Times" and "The Washington Post" describes the decision as significant to U.S. foreign policy.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Germany is Iran's largest trading partner and closest European friend

The newspaper's Mary William Walsh calls it "a ruling that shook the foundations of Germany's controversial relationship with Iran." She writes: "The ruling was the first known instance of a court verifying Tehran's sponsorship of murder on foreign soil. It prompted calls from all sides for an immediate review and downgrading of Germany's ties to the Islamic state."

She adds: "Germany is Iran's largest trading partner and has long been its closest European friend. A cooling of the Bonn-Tehran relationship would please the United States, which considers Germany's tolerance of the Islamic regime a rare irritant in an otherwise-solid U.S.-German friendship."

WASHINGTON POST: The U.S. often exhorts its allies to isolate Iran

William Dorzdiak writes: "The long-awaited verdict caused a rupture in relations between Iran and Germany, its biggest trading partner in the West," and says: "The United States has often exhorted its European allies to isolate Iran as a pariah for its alleged role in sponsoring terrorism abroad. But Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government (has) balked at taking any punitive steps that could jeopardize (multimillion-dollar German business interests)."

NEW YORK TIMES: The ruling reinforced the Clinton administration

In today's edition, Alan Cowell says in a news analysis: "The ruling reinforced the Clinton administration's assertions that Iran's Islamic rulers sponsor state terrorism and fueled demands by the United States for Germany and other European allies to end what they call their 'critical dialogue' with Iran, a policy that permits a flourishing trade relationship with a land that Washington wants ostracized as a pariah."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Author Salman Rushdie may derive some satisfaction

In an analysis in today's edition, Ray Moseley writes from London that the decision has some subtle foreign-intelligence -- and even literary -- aspects also. He says: "Europe put its political and diplomatic relations with Iran in a deep freeze Thursday after a German court branded Iran's president and its spiritual leader as instigators of murder." Moseley writes: "The German intelligence service, known by the initials BND, has close links with its counterparts in Iran, and that has angered both the CIA and the British intelligence services."

He adds: "One man who undoubtedly will derive some satisfaction from the European response is British author Salman Rushdie, who was condemned to death by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for his book, 'The Satanic Verses,' which Khomeini judged to be offensive to Islam. Rushdie has been highly critical of European governments for failing to respond more vigorously to Iranian-sponsored threats and terrorism."
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