Kurdish murder in Vienna still in mystery
20 years on
VIENNA, Austria,— The murder of a Kurdish
opposition leader in Vienna, in which Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's name has been
dragged, is still shrouded in mystery two decades
Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the leader of the
Democratic Party of Kurdistan -- an Iranian
opposition party outlawed by Tehran -- was killed in
the Austrian capital on July 13, 1989 by commandos
who were never apprehended.
A number of witnesses have even linked Ahmadinejad
to Ghassemlou's murder and those of two others but
Tehran has persistently denied involvement.
German authorities have said Ghassemlou's murder, as
well as the assassination of his successor Sadegh
Charafkandi in Berlin in 1992, had been ordered by
top Iranian officials.
Austria remains stubbornly tight-lipped on the case.
And 20 years on, a former investigator on the case
remains under pressure from the interior ministry
not to give any interviews.
A former ministry official was similarly taciturn
when contacted by AFP.
Ghassemlou and the two other men had come to Vienna
to participate in secret peace negotiations with
the third set of talks
since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, in which
the Iranian Kurds had taken Baghdad's side.
Following his murder and after initial
interrogations, investigators became suspicious of
two members of the Iranian delegation, but in what
Austrian authorities have described as
administrative errors, the suspects escaped.
Between instructions that were never given out,
delayed arrest warrants, mistaken reporting and
competition between the different police
departments, the errors multiplied.
One suspect, Amir Mansour Borzorgian, claimed to be
a bodyguard for the Iranian delegation and sought
refuge in the Iranian embassy in Vienna. He was
discreetly allowed to leave the country months
Former KDPI Kurdish leader Dr.Abdul Rahman Qassemlou
(Qasimlo, Ghassemlou), assassinated in Vienna 1989.
Photo: KURDNET Archive
Dr. Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou and two of his
associates were killed in an apartment in the
outskirts of the Austrian capital Vienna where they
were holding secret talks with envoys sent by then
Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP-Iran), is accusing Ahmadinejad
to be directly involved in the killing of their
Another, an Iranian "emissary" Mohamad Sahraroudi
was wounded in the attack and therefore seen as a
victim. He was given police protection until he left
for Tehran on July 22, 1989.
The arrest warrants for both men were only issued
"Austria ceded to pressure to safeguard its economic
interests," claims Green party deputy Peter Pilz,
who has written a book on the affair, where he
accused high-ranking Austrian officials of ceding to
Last month, Pilz presented to the media a testimony
by a German arms dealer who claimed to have
delivered weapons to Ahmadinejad in July 1989,
shortly before Ghassemlou's assassination.
In a statement to
Italian anti-mafia authorities in April 2006 while
he was serving a sentence for arms trafficking in
Trieste, Italy, the German said he delivered half a
dozen light weapons during a meeting in the Iranian
embassy in Vienna.
At this meeting were three Iranians, including "a
who later became
president of the Republic of Iran," he said,
according to a copy of the translated testimony
presented by Pilz.
A key question is why the Kurdish delegation took
such little safety precautions.
A first meeting had taken place the evening before
the murder in the same Vienna apartment, where there
were no police or Kurdish bodyguards.
"I believe Ghassemlou thought that (the then-Iranian
President Akbar Hashemi) Rafsanjani was in a weaker
position and needed to negotiate with him," suggests
Chris Kutschera, a writer and a Kurdistan expert.
that potential witnesses were cowed into silence.
"We have to find documents in Iran with signatures"
proving that the killings were carried on the
regime's orders, she said.
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