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Iran protests against Berlin plaque

Published on 11/05/2004

11 May 2004

BERLIN – Authorities in Teheran will erect a protest plaque outside the German embassy in the Iranian capital in a dispute over a tribute to four Kurdish dissidents who were killed in the German capital by Iranian hit-men a dozen years ago, officials said Tuesday.

Berlin city officials said they had been apprised of plans by the Teheran city council to erect a plaque on Friday accusing Germany of having aided and abetted Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in gassing thousands of Iranian soldiers and civilians during the Iran-Iraq war.

German chemicals companies supplied Saddam with technology he needed for such weapons of mass destruction, the Teheran officials say.

Last month, Teheran ordered the closure of a German language institute. Earlier in April, the Iranian government filed an official protest with the German government over the plaque, which was unveiled 20 April in Berlin.

The stainless steel plaque, measuring 50 by 70 centimetres, is at the site of a long defunct Greek restaurant called the Mykonos Café.

It was there in 1992, that four dissidents were machine-gunned to death in a gangland slaying that stunned Germany and which has overshadowed German-Iranian relations ever since.

Five years after the slayings, a Berlin court openly accused one- time Iranian intelligence chief Ali Fallahian of state-sponsored terrorism when it sentenced two suspects to life imprisonment. That judgement further strained relations between the two countries.

Fallahian repeatedly rejected any links to the 1992 incident in Berlin.

Now, just as tensions were easing between Germany and Iran, local officials in Berlin decided to erect a commemorative plaque to the victims of 1992.

Response from Iran was quick and damning, with Teheran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadi Nejad firing off an angry letter accusing Berlin of provocatively seeking to insult the Islamic republic, and calling on Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit to prevent the plaque from being erected.

But Wowereit wrote back informing his counterpart in Teheran that he is powerless to stop the plaque, which is the brainchild of neighbourhood Social Democrats and Greens who have jurisdiction over such matters in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin.

In turn the Foreign Office tried with little effect to budge the neighbourhood politicians. The Foreign Office only succeeded in getting them to postpone the official dedication ceremonies.

The ceremonies had been planned to take place 1 April – coinciding with an Afghanistan donors conference in Berlin.

With envoys from Iran and 50 other nations in town for the conference, the Foreign Office persuaded the local officials to reschedule the dedication for 20 April.

And the wording of the plaque was revised, also under pressure from diplomats.

Instead of saying the dissidents were “murdered by the Iranian intelligence service”, the plaque says they were “murdered by those in power in Iran at the time”.


Subject: German news