Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Ali Akbar Mohammadi

About

Age: 39
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: January 16, 1987
Location of Killing: Hamburg, Germany
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial Shooting

About this Case

Information regarding the life and the extrajudicial execution of Mr. Ali Akbar Mohammadi, son of Assieh and Hassan, was obtained through interviews conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center with his brother (December 22, 2020), one of his close friends (March 13, 2021), and another one of his friends (April 12, 2021). Additional information about this case was obtained from Mr. Mohammadi’s statement after fleeing Iran (Boroumand Center documents); Sharq News website (March 9, 2021); Iran Wire (August 27, 2020); Asr-e Iran website (August 13, 2009); Radio Farda (February 23, 2004); Focus German magazine (February 9, and 21, 2004); Jomhurie Eslami newspaper (August 14, and 15, 1986); Kayhan Havai (August 20, 1986, January 28, 1987, and August 6, 2020); a portion of Mr. Mohammadi’s interview with the Aparat website after his escape from Iran; Taz German newspaper (January 29, 1987); the Washington Post (July 8, 1987); the Associated Press (January 16, 1987); German Interior Minister’s response to questions posed by a Member of Parliament and the Green Party (December 21, 1987); Shahrvand newspaper (August 14, 2014); the book “There is Still a Judge in Berlin” by Messrs. Mehran Payandeh, Abbas Khodagholi, and Hamid Nozari (1998-99); and the book “Terror in The Name of God” by Mr. Parviz Dastmalchi (2020).

Mr. Mohammadi was married and had a daughter. He was born in Tehran and was the eldest child of a well-to-do family. He obtained his high school diploma from Mohammad Naraghi High School in Tehran’s Niavaran district, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from the Tehran College of Translation. Mr. Mohammadi obtained his advanced pilot’s license in Manila, the Philippines.

He was a renowned footballer (soccer player). His interest in football had started in high school. He played for the Iran National Youth Team and then played for such well-known clubs as Oghab and Persepolis. “This boy was respected and loved by everyone in the entire family. He was extremely kind and was a friend to everybody. Everybody truly loved him.” (Boroumand Center Interview with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

After finishing his pilot’s training, Mr. Mohammadi “started working for the Prime Minister’s Office’s Air Taxi Company. He was an instructor as well as a pilot of Falcon 20 jets that were at the disposal of the Prime Minister’s Office, the princes, and guests of the Royal Court, and was used on international trips.” (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

After the Revolution, Mr. Mohammadi decided not to work in the Iranian airline industry. He engaged in business in the Philippines for a time. After a while (less than a year), however, he was invited to return to his previous job [of piloting Falcon jets] which were used after the Revolution by cabinet ministers and guests of the Islamic Republic, under the supervision of the Mostaz’afan Foundation. (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s friends, April 12, 2021).

Mr. Mohammadi “was the pilot designated for cabinet ministers and certain other Islamic Republic government officials, as well as a flight instructor. He also took these airplanes abroad, for instance to France, for annual inspections.” (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

According to one of his friends, “Mr. Mohammadi was not a very religious man, but he believed in God. That is, he wasn’t a Hezbollahi (die-hard supporters of the Islamic Republic) or someone who would engage in shady deals with them in the system … He prayed, but did not like praying in his place of work at all, or growing a beard, or doing things of that nature.” He was in the company of Iranian officials during their trips because of his work, and was not happy about working in post-Revolution conditions. He believed that the media (print and television) misled the people. “The officials only think about their personal interests and do not think about Iran and the Iranians. They mislead and dupe people and take the country backward and into an abyss.” He believed that one of the country’s biggest problems was the war. “They want to stay in power no matter what it takes, and they continue the war and use it as a means to silence the discontented people.” (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

Escape from Iran

At eight o’clock in the morning of August 13, 1986, Mr. Mohammadi took off from [the city of] Rasht Airport in a Falcon training jet, accompanied by his brother and his brother-in-law (his wife’s brother), and left Iran. He flew to Iraq using Turkish airspace. Several Iraqi jets initially forced him to land in Mosul Airport; he subsequently flew to Baghdad with a number of Iraqi military personnel in tow. A group of Iraqi officials, as well as reporters, were waiting for him at Baghdad Airport. According to one of his friends, Mr. Mohammadi had done his research and had even inquired about employment with France and Canada. He had chosen [to fly to] Iraq because he thought that countries like Turkey and Syria might turn him over to Iran. He had sent his wife and daughter to Germany one month prior to his exit from Iran to shield them from dangerous situations. (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s friends, April 12, 2021).

Regarding the continuation of the war, Mr. Mohammadi stated in his first interview in Iraq: “No Iranian is happy with this war … My escape is, in actuality, in protest of this war; that’s why I’ve come to Iraq, because in doing so, I can inflict the most severe blow to this inhuman regime.” (Mr. Mohammadi’s interview after fleeing to Iraq, on YouTube).

Mr. Mohammadi did not want to stay in Iraq: “Akbar did not want to do this. He said he needed to leave Iraq as soon as possible. He didn’t want any talk behind his back to the effect that he had sold himself and was sleeping with the enemy … Essentially, the reason he went to Iraq was that he thought that other countries would turn him and the airplane over to Iran because of their fear of Iran or because they thought the relations with Iran [would suffer]. The only place that was safe was Iraq, and the news of his flight was explosive. Iraq was the only place where he did not feel that he and his family were in any danger. (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s friends, April 12, 2021).

In “a statement from Ali Akbar Mohammadi for his family’s, friends’, and relives’ information regarding his departure to the country of Iraq”, available at the Boroumand Center, Mr. Mohammadi explained his reasons for leaving Iran and choosing Iraq: “… I had been aware of the [inhuman and] anti-people nature of Khomeini’s regime and of his blood-thirsty cronies for a long time, and I suffered immensely for working with such an oppressive regime. And then, four months ago, I decided to rise up as an enlightened Iranian and as someone who has never stayed silent in the face of oppression and tyranny, and to inflict harm on this regime with all my might and to try to overthrow them until my last breath. That was why I planned this operation by myself and implemented it on August 12, 1986.”

Mr. Mohammadi explained his reasons for going to Iraq: “Some of you may ask why I went to Iraq and you may have even labeled me a traitor, an unpatriotic sell-out, etc. No, my friends, I am neither a traitor nor a sell-out, just a regular, patriotic Iranian … In order to inflict the most painful and effective political blow to Khomeini’s regime, I took the plane to Iraq, because if I had taken it to another country, there was a great chance that the whole thing would have ended in extreme secrecy and confidentiality … Things would have just ended in a very simple manner. That was why by doing what I did, I was able to attract the attention of most of the world’s radio, television, and print media news to myself and to the demands of my people for a week, and I was able to further expose and shed light on the nature of Khomeini’s regime for the whole world to see … The airplane will now remain in Iraq until it can be returned to Iran either by myself or by another pilot, once Khomeini’s cruel and oppressive regime is overthrown, God willing, and a one hundred percent Iranian regime takes over in Tehran.”

In addressing his pilot friends in this statement, Mr. Mohammadi wrote: “Friends, do you know how effective you can be on reaching the objective of freeing Iran and inflicting damage to this tyrannical and inhuman regime? Just think a little bit, just think a little bit about the responsibilities you have toward your family, your friends, and your people …  Friends, it’s never too late to start the fight, but the sooner, the better; start the fight against the clerics’ regime, and join the roaring flood of struggles and fights against the clerics regime that has begun inside and outside the country, which is taking on more and more amplitude every day and will soon result in the freeing of the country from the hands of these foreigners.”

Finally, he wrote about the false news the regime was disseminating about the war: “… In publishing these false news, Khomeini’s regime is simply trying to bring the uneducated and clueless people of Iran on its evil path, that is, war, so it can drive the two countries of Iran and Iraq all the more toward the path of destruction and serve the interests of the superpowers … “

Mr. Mohammadi and his companions left Iraq after three weeks and went to Germany where he settled with his family and asked for asylum in September 1986.

Threats and Mr. Mohammadi’s Death

Mr. Mohammadi was in fear for his safety in Hamburg, and had requested a passport from German authorities so that he and his family could travel to another country. Various phone calls by unidentified individuals to Mr. Mohammadi’s attorney in the weeks leading up to his assassination, asking for his address under various pretexts, had worried him: “The four months prior to my brother’s assassination, his lawyer had been following up on his asylum case. The lawyer would go to the Asylum Office every week to obtain a passport for my brother so he could leave Germany. (Hamburg was like a hornet’s nest. We knew back then that it was full of Hezbollahis and that my brother’s life was in danger.) My brother had told them that his life was in danger and that he wanted a passport so he could come and join me (I was in Spain at the time). He was also saying ‘or at least give me a ‘laissez passer’ or temporary pass.” (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020; Taz tageszeitung newspaper, January 29, 1987; Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

According to German Police, Mr. Mohammadi had been threatened on the phone two days prior to his assassination. The threat was made in Persian and the callers had told him that four commandoes were on their way to kill him. Mr. Mohammadi and his attorney went to the police once again after that phone call, and his attorney talked to them about his client’s perilous situation and asked for their protection. The police’s response was that they could not protect him because his asylum had not been granted yet [and he did not have refugee status]. Even though Mr. Mohammad’s asylum application had been approved in mid-December, the Immigration Office did not take any steps and his attempts did not have any positive results. (Taz, January 29, 1987).

At 9 o’clock in the morning of January 16, 1987, Mr. Mohammadi took her 4-year-old daughter to her pre-school and said goodbye to her. According to a German woman who was watching the events unfold from her window, suddenly two men appeared in the pre-school yard and had a short conversation with him. He seemed surprised and got into a scuffle with one of the men and slipped and fell. The two men shot Mr. Mohammadi five times in the head and fled the scene without being identified. According to an eyewitness, both men were carrying firearms and both shot Mr. Mohammadi. (Focus Magazine, February 9, 2004; Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

A senior criminal affairs commissioner in the German Criminal Investigations Bureau testified at the Mykonos Trial* that the firearms that were used to assassinate Mr. Mohammadi, and those used 5 years later to kill Kurdish leaders at the Mykonos Restaurant, were from the same series and the same shipment/consignment: In Mr. Mohammadi’s case, a Llama brand firearm and a silencer, similar to the weapon used in the Mykonos Assassinations** were found that same day, and on January 24, a Browning brand firearm was found a few streets from the scene of the murder. Investigations showed that Mr. Mohammadi had been shot with these weapons, which, when compared with the Colt used in the Berlin assassinations, indicated that they were form the same series and consignment. A senior criminal affairs commissioner in the German Criminal Investigations Bureau also testified at the Mykonos Trial that Mr. Mohammadi’s assassins had used a Llama XA, 7.65 mm caliber, with a silencer, and a Colt Beretta Model 1934, which, when compared to the Colt used in the Berlin Assassination, showed that they were from the same series and consignment. It must be noted that the weapon used in the assassination of Gholam Keshavarz, a well-known Iranian opposition figure, in Cyprus was the same type. (The book “There Is Still A Judge in Berlin”; Dastmalchi, “Terror in The Name of God”).

Iranian Officials’ Reaction

News of Mr. Mohammadi’s assassination was published in Kayhan Newspaper: “A fugitive pilot who had fled to Iraq and had asked for political asylum in West Germany was assassinated by two armed men in Hamburg.” (Kayhan Havai, January 28, 1987). Islamic Republic authorities did not officially accept responsibility for Mr. Mohammadi’s assassination, however.

A German Federal Criminal Police officer stated this at the Mykonos Trial regarding the Iranian Consul’s statements subsequent to Mr. Mohammadi’s assassination: “In a conversation I had with him a few days after the assassination, the Iranian Consul stated that ‘Mohammadi had taken secret documents out of Iran and had given them to Iraq, and that he was a traitor. We knew exactly where he lived but we did not kill him’.” ((The book “There Is Still A Judge in Berlin”).

In 2020, however, Sharq News website re-printed a report from the personal page of Mehdi Bakhtiari, a military affairs reporter (Fars and Tasnim news agencies), in which an interview with an F-14 pilot regarding Mr. Ahmad Moradi Talemi’s escape had been published. The report alluded to a film about Mr. Moradi’s murder in Switzerland and there was an explanation about how the pilots that fled Iran were dealt with: “Moradi’s fate in Switzerland: After 6 months, they played a video for me and said ‘do you know this woman?’ I said yes, this is Ms. Moradi. They said ‘do you know the person next to her as well?’ I looked. As that person (it was Ahmad Moradi) was walking toward the camera, he was suddenly shot.”

Some clarifications:

“First of all, all of the pilots who had stolen fighter jets were subsequently killed and none of them were able to get away with it …” (Sharq News, March 9, 2021).

A few months before the assassination, Iranian officials and media had reacted negatively to Mr. Mohammadi’s flight from Iran. Jomhurie Eslami newspaper had claimed in a report that he had not gone to Iraq of his own volition: “In coordination with the Iraqi regime, yesterday morning at 8 o’clock, “Estekbar” (“Imperialist”, derogatory term referring to the United States, and more generally, the West) operatives diverted a small plane that was on a training mission and had taken off from Rasht Airport from its path, and took it to Iraq with the pilot’s cooperation.” (Jomhurie Eslami newspaper, August 13, 1985).

Then-Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament) and the country’s Defense High Council Spokesman also stated this regarding the escape of the Asseman Airline’s training airplane: “The events as a whole indicate that the Iraqis and those affiliated with them, need a subject for propaganda purposes in order to divert public opinion from what they’re instigating. The pilot that took this plane to Baghdad was not thinking properly …” (Jomhurie Eslami newspaper, August 13, 1985 and Kayhan Havai,August 20, 1986).

Iranian officials showed their sensitivity to Mr. Mohammadi’s escape by putting severe and intense pressure on his family in Iran. Mr. Mohammadi’s parents and his in-laws were interrogated after his escape and spent a night in detention. (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

Mr. Mohammadi’s sisters and their husbands were arrested and questioned, and lost their jobs. “They fired all of my sisters from their jobs. They did not let their husbands work for years … Killing Akbar wasn’t enough for them, my mother died of a broken heart … They frightened my sisters so much that they won’t even mention his name … They took them to be interrogated, endless hours, telling them ‘you knew he wanted to flee’. They harassed my father, that poor old man, so much that he died after Akbar’s death. Not only had they fired my sister from her job, they had also ruined her reputation. They had interrogated her endlessly; they had even interrogated her 14-year-old kid, telling the kid ‘you knew your uncle wanted to leave’ … They had taken them back and forth a dozen times.” (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

German Officials’ Reaction

German Criminal Police emphasized that Mr. Mohammadi’s murder was committed with political motives and that it could have been related to his job and escape from Iran. ((Focus Magazine, February 21, 2004). After the assassination, at the request of Mr. Mohammadi’s family, German officials assigned four police officers to protect the family for six months.

Two individuals were arrested in connection with Mr. Mohammadi’s assassination, but the officials did not disclose any information about them and released them after a while. According to a source with information about the case, German officials told Mr. Mohammadi’s family that the assassination had been carried out by an Arab terrorist group, and also insinuated that the Iranian Embassy knew more about the murder than the German Police. (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s close friends, March 13, 2021).

According to Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, a police officer had told him that the name of one of the individuals who had been arrested was Kazem.

The police published the likenesses of the two men, drawn with the help of eyewitnesses, in Hamburg newspapers. The two were never arrested, however, and the German government’s reporting on its findings about this crime was not transparent. According to a person with knowledge of the case, “it was one hundred percent clear” for German Police that Iran was responsible. “They said it was done by Iran, and they had several rug merchants under surveillance and I think they even questioned them, but they never revealed their names.” (Boroumand Center Interview with one of Mr. Mohammadi’s friends, April 12, 2021).

Adverse reaction to the assassination of Iranian refugees, including Mr. Mohammadi, found its way to the Federal Government’s Parliament. On December 18, 1987, Mr. Wuppeshal, Member of Parliament, and the Green Party faction, posed a number of questions in the German Parliament regarding Iran’s role in planning terrorist operations abroad and the German Government’s awareness and information concerning such operations. German Interior Minister’s response to these questions was general and lacking in transparency: “The German government is closely monitoring the activities of foreign individuals and groups that are in one way or another connected to terrorist activities. We are aware that it has been claimed in certain cases that certain activities related to Iranian groups have been planned on, and/or supported from, German soil. The Federal Government’s follow up inquiries to shed light on these claims have not led to any results that would allow any legal actions to be taken against any individual or individuals pursuant to German law. Furthermore, the Federal government always avoids making information related to these matters public. The Federal Government declares that there is no intelligence cooperation whatsoever between the Federal Government’s intelligence bodies and Iranian intelligence institutions.” (German Interior Minister’s response to the questions posed by a member of the Parliament and by the Green Party faction, December 21, 1987).

In 2003, the German Federal Prosecutor and the Federal Criminal Police began new investigations regarding Iran’s security apparatus’ Death Commandos in connection with Mr. Mohammadi’s assassination in Hamburg and Mr. Farrokhzad’s murder in Bonn. The reason for reopening these two cases was the flight of an Iranian intelligence-security official from Iran. Central to this person’s testimony was providing the German Prosecutor’s Office with certain information regarding those who had ordered the killing of these two victims from Tehran. According to the Federal Criminal Police’s (BKA) investigation and the Prosecutor’s Office, the responsibility for the murder of Messrs. Mohammadi and Farrokhzad probably lies with the Iranian Information Organization. (Focus Magazine, February 9, 2004).

Familys’ Reaction

Mr. Mohammadi’s family and brother moved to Frankfurt after his assassination. They filed a complaint about a year after his killing with the help of an experienced and influential lawyer and made efforts to obtain information about the murder and to seek justice. Ultimately, however, not only did the family not have any success in getting justice, but their attorney asked them in early 1989 to meet him outside his office and cautioned them not to pursue the case any longer. He expressly told Mr. Mohammadi’s family that “the Federal Government and the regime’s Information Ministry are involved” and following up on the case would put them in danger as well. Mr. Mohammadi’s attorney then gave them a copy of their case file and dropped the case. “The lawyer gave us the file with all the investigations … There was nothing in there [about] who had done the deed, who had committed the murder, why they had done it, who had been arrested; nothing.” (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, and with one of his close friends, December 22, 2020, and March 13, 2021).

In 2003-04, after the German Federal Prosecutor reopened Pilot Mohammadi’s murder case, his brother filed another request as a private plaintiff for a de novo examination with the Prosecutor’s Office. He hired a well-known international lawyer. The Mohammadi family’s attorney first wrote a letter to Joschka Fischer, then-German Foreign Minister, and other high-ranking Ministry officials, and asked for their help in pursuing the case, and for political considerations. “It is doubtful whether the German Foreign Ministry can really help this lawyer in this political case because this is a complicated political matter in Iran-Germany relations.” (Focus Magazine, February 9, 2004).

In Mr. Mohammadi’s brother’s opinion, Germany was negligent in protecting his brother whose life was in danger. “They kept him [around] so they could do their [dastardly deeds] of tracking him, so they could do their deals, until the right time comes to make a hit. I am positive, one hundred percent positive, that the Germans knew exactly when they were going to get my brother and how they were going to do it; they knew everything. How else would it be possible? They let them find out about Akbar’s routine – that he was the only person who came every day – and where to look for him.” (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

Impacts on Family

Mr. Mohammadi’s family had a very difficult period both in Iran and in Germany after his flight and his assassination, and lived in extreme fear and apprehension for a long time. According to Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, he planned to join him in Spain (where he had settled) once his refugee status had been granted, and open a pilot’s training school there.

“My brother had come and we were planning on working together hand in hand, relying on each other, to build our lives. But unfortunately, they didn’t let that happen.” (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

Mr. Mohammadi’s family was also under duress for months in Iran by the security forces. They were fired from their jobs and were not allowed to work for years. His sisters and their spouses were fired. “One of my sisters was the head nurse at a hospital, one was a high school principal, and another was a lawyer; this last one fled Iran and she faced many crises in her life … As for their husbands, one was in the documents registration business and the other worked at the [state-run] Television. They completely destroyed both of them: One got a divorce, [the other one and my sister] left Iran. They would not let them live [a normal] life in Iran. They fled Iran. I mean they took their kids and went to South Africa. Then in South Africa … I mean, lives were destroyed after Akbar’s assassination.” (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Mohammadi’s brother, December 22, 2020).

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*The Mykonos Trial started on October 28, 1993, one year after the assassination of four opposition leaders to the Islamic Republic, and continued until April 10, 1997. There were a total of 247 sessions, and 176 people testified at this trial. Kazem Darabi, member of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Security Apparatus, along with four Lebanese nationals, Abbas Rahil, Yussef Amin, Ataollah Ayad, and Mohammad Atris, were the defendants at this Trial. The trial lasted more than three years. The Court ultimately sentenced Darabi and Rahil to life imprisonment for the murder of the four individuals. Amin was sentenced to 11 years in prison, Atris to 5 years and 3 months, for complicity to murder. Ayad was released. The most important result of the Court’s Decision was that the leaders of the Islamic Republic, including Khamenei, the Leader; Rafsanjani, the then-President; Velayati, the then-Foreign Minister; and Fallahian, the then-Minister of Information, were declared the main decision-makers in a “Special Affairs Committee” set up in order to kill opposition figures abroad, and were accused of preparing the groundwork for the assassination of these four individuals and others outside the country.
**Mykonos Assassination: At 10:52 PM on September 17, 1992, two armed individuals wearing masks entered Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin’s Wilmersdorfer District and assassinated four Islamic Republic opposition figures in the Restaurant’s back room: Messrs. Sadeq Sharafkandi, First Secretary of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Fattah Abdoli, member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s Central Committee and the Party’s representative in Europe, Homayun Ardalan, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s representative in Germany, and Nuri Dehkordi. The restaurant owner who was an Iranian was seriously injured.
After these assassinations, the British Intelligence Service informed the German security apparatus of the hiding place for two of the members of the assassination team: Lebanese nationals Abbas Rahil and Yussef Amin, who were arrested by German authorities. Upon Yussef Amin’s confession, an Iranian national named Kazem Darabi, who was found to be the organizer of the hit, and three other Lebanese nationals, were arrested.

 

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