Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Sorush Katibeh


Age: 33
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: August 6, 1991
Location of Killing: No.37, Rue Cluseret, Suresne, France
Mode of Killing: Stabbing
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

He continued his college education through distance learning, from the home of the Leader of the National Resistance Movement. His love and loyalty for Shapur Bakhtiar sent Sorush Katibeh to his death as well.

Information regarding the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Sorush Katibeh was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center with one of his friends (April 8, 2022); the report by Jean-Louis Bruguière’s, the French judge in charge of investigations in this case; the Prosecutor’s indictment; reports published in the media including Le Monde, Liberation, L’Express; Yedioth Ahronoth; Le Figaro; an article by Abdolkarim Lahiji, jurist and vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, published on the BBC website (August 4, 2011); and Jomhuri Eslami newspaper (September 18, 1991).*

Mr. Sorush Katibeh was born in 1958-59 in Tehran, and was single. He went to France after the 1979 Revolution and started studying sociology at the university in the city of Lyon. He was engaged to be married to an Iranian woman. According to one of his friends, “he liked the game of tennis. He liked dancing, and loved smoking cigarettes. He wasn’t very talkative, got along with people, and never whined about anything”. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Katibeh’s friends).

Mr. Katibeh, who was also a member of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance, had been introduced to Mr. Bakhtiar by one of his friends in 1983, and had started to work at his home as his secretary and assistant: “The Doctor [referring to Mr. Bakhtiar] asked me if I knew a trustworthy person. Sorush came and immediately took a great liking to the Doctor, as did the Doctor to him. There came a point where Sorush loved the Doctor more than his own father.” While working for Mr. Bakhtiar at his office, Mr. Katibeh continued his higher education through distance learning, and obtained a master’s degree in psychology. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Katibeh’s friends).

The National Movement of the Iranian Resistance

The National Movement of the Iranian Resistance (also called the National Resistance Movement) is an organization opposed to the Islamic republic, established on August 5, 1980, in Paris, France, by Shapur Bakhtiar, leader of the Iran Party and the last prime minister of the Monarchy. It was inspired by the National Resistance Movement that was established after the fall of Mohammad Mossadegh’s government in 1953. Bakhtiar invited all nationalist groups and individuals to unite their forces around one political platform under the umbrella of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance. In its “National Movement of the Iranian Resistance Intellectual Principles and Political Platform”, published on January 15, 1981, the National Resistance Movement announced its aim to be the establishment of democracy and a system based and predicated upon the free will of the people, so that citizens could be provided with the opportunity for a free, fruitful, and valuable life. The founder of the Movement insisted upon a pluralistic political structure, and considered intellectual and practical agreement with nationalism, democracy, and social justice as the as the necessary conditions for membership in the Movement. After its establishment, the Movement proposed a short-term and temporary plan consisting of four clauses: 1. The overthrow of the newly-established Islamic Republic of Iran; 2. Establishment of security through the creation of a coalition government “composed of the nationalist opposition that shall have as its priority the realization of freedom and independence”; 3. The repair of an economy “that is on the verge of bankruptcy during the dark rule [of theocracy]”; and 4. Establishment of a Constitutive Assembly, carrying out free elections, and turning over the country’s affairs to the government chosen by the people’s elected representatives.

In the early years of its activity, a wide array of Iranians both inside and outside Iran either joined or supported the National Resistance Movement. Among its principal activities were organizing the political and military arms of the Movement in various countries and in Iran; establishing contact with those opposed to the regime inside Iran and striving to organize them and to gather political and military intelligence; organizing assemblies and protests; disseminating Iran-related news, especially information regarding human rights violations and arbitrary executions inside and outside the country through publication of books and magazines (Nehzat weekly magazine and Qiam-e Iran weekly); establishment of radio broadcasts in various countries including Iraq and Egypt; conducting interviews with foreign and Persian language media; corresponding with human rights institutions including the United Nations (for the purpose of conducting a referendum on the Islamic Republic under the auspices of the United Nations and/or reporting on the mass murder of political prisoners in the summer of 1988); and promoting human rights and democracy. As time went by, civil struggles became more important as part of the Resistance Movement’s activities. The first such civil movement that took shape at the Resistance Movement’s initiative were anti-war protests. On May 17, 1985, The Movement dispatched a call to companies and offices in Iran that had a fax machine, and called on the people through radio broadcasts and telephone calls to take part in peaceful demonstrations against the regime and protest the continuation of the war with Iraq. It was said that hundreds of thousands of people in various towns answered the call and participated in the demonstrations.

In the first decade of its establishment, a large number of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance members were threatened and assassinated, including its founders Shapur Bakhtiar and Abdorrahman Boroumand, who were killed in Paris in 1991, and several officers of the Resistance Movement’s military arm, who were victims of extrajudicial killings in the first two decades after the Revolution.

Background of Extrajudicial Killings by the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long history of politically motivated violence in Iran and around the world. Since the 1979 Revolution, Islamic Republic operatives inside and outside the country have engaged in kidnapping, disappearing, and killing a large number of individuals whose activities they deemed undesirable. The actual number of the victims of extrajudicial killings inside Iran is not clear; however, these murders began in February 1979 and have continued since then, both inside and outside Iran. The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center has so far identified over 540 killings outside Iran attributed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Dissidents have been assassinated by the agents of the Islamic Republic outside Iran in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, India, and Pakistan in Asia; Dubai, Iraq, and Turkey in the Middle East; Cyprus, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain in Europe; and the United States across the Atlantic Ocean. In most cases there has not been much published and the local authorities have not issued arrest warrants. But documentation, evidence, and traces obtained through investigations conducted by local police and judicial authorities confirm, however, the theory of state committed crimes. In certain cases, these investigations have resulted in the expulsion or arrest of Iranian diplomats. In limited cases outside Iran, the perpetrators of these murders have been arrested and put on trial and the evidence presented, revealed the defendants’ connection to Iran’s government institutions, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Iran’s Minister of Information.

The manner in which these killings were organized and implemented in Iran and abroad, is indicative of a single pattern which, according to Roland Chatelin, the Swiss prosecutor, contains common parameters and detailed planning. It can be ascertained from the similarities between these murders in different countries that the Iranian government is the principal entity who ordered the implementation of these crimes. Iranian authorities have not officially accepted responsibility for these murders and have even attributed their commission to internal strife in opposition groups. Nevertheless, since the very inception of the Islamic Republic regime, the Islamic Republic officials have justified these crimes from an ideological and legal standpoint. In the spring of 1979, Sadeq Khalkhali, the first Chief Shari’a Judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts, officially announced the regime’s decision to implement extrajudicial executions, and justified the decision: “ … These people have been sentenced to death; from the Iranian people’s perspective, if someone wants to assassinate these individuals abroad, in any country, no government has any right to bring the perpetrator to trial as a terrorist, because such a person is the implementing agent of the sentence issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. Therefore, they are Mahduroddam and their sentence is death regardless of where they are.” More than 10 years after these proclamations, in a speech about the security forces’ success, Ali Fallahian, the regime’s Minister of Information stated the following regarding the elimination of members of the opposition: “ … We have had success in inflicting damage to many of these little groups outside the country and on our borders”

At the same time, various political, judicial, and security officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have, at different times and occasions, confirmed the existence of a long term government policy for these extrajudicial killings and in some cases their implementation.**

Mr. Sorush Katibeh’s death

According to available information, Mr. Katibeh was killed on August 6, 1991, at Mr. Bakhtiar’s residence (37, Cluseret Street, Suresne, a Paris suburb), along with Mr. Bakhtiar himself. The French police and security forces guarded the home, and were stationed outside as well as in the basement.

That day, Dr. Bakhtiar had a scheduled meeting with three men, one of whom, Fereidoon Boyerahmadi, a member of Mr. Bakhtiar’s National Resistance Movement, had been recruited by Iran's intelligence services to gather information by earning Mr. Bakhtiar’s trust and frequenting his home, and to facilitate the entry of the Iranian regime’s agents into Mr. Bakhtiar’s home. Boyerahmadi succeeded in taking Ali Vakili Rad and Mohammad Azadi, reported to be members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps to Mr. Bakhtiar’s home.

After stabbing Mr. Katibeh and Mr. Bakhtiar multiple times with a kitchen knife (knives) and killing them, the attackers were able to leave the house. Their exit took place without the officers [stationed at the home] following proper security procedures; for example, all three passports were turned over to Boyerahmadi instead of each individual picking up their own passports, without the other two attackers even approaching the location where security forces stationed. Although the police were stationed at Dr. Bakhtiar’s home 24 hours a day, French authorities announced having discovered the victims' slain bodies 36 hours after they had been murdered.

The coroner announced the cause of death as asphyxiation and multiple stab wounds to the bodies of the deceased. Mr. Katibeh had five large wounds in his liver, heart, and spinal column, and many smaller wounds had been inflicted with a bread knife. Vakili Rad and Azadi were stranded in French territory for a short time after their mission, but were ultimately able to leave France.

The investigations led by the French investigative judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, documented the Iranian authorities' involvement in this assassination. According to Judge Bruguière's report, in August 1991, the American and British Governments intercepted and decoded messages sent by the Iranian Ministry of Information to Europe concerning the execution of Dr. Bakhtiar. On Wednesday, August 7th, twenty-four hours before Bakhtiar's and Katibeh's bodies were discovered, said ministry was asking for information about of this murder. (L'Express, August 22 1991). Prior to the discovery of Dr. Bakhtiar’s body and the official announcement of his assassination, a number of rumors were circulating in the city of Shiraz concerning his death, which could be evidence of the Iranian regime’s involvement in this murder.

The French police and the Special Prosecutor for Terrorism’s investigations led to the indictment of a number of people linked to the Iranian government, including Mas’ud Hendi, a relative of Ayatollah Khomeini and a former representative of the Iranian State Television in Paris. He had helped an [Iranian] Ministry of Information official to obtain entry visas to France for the killers under the guise of electronic technicians. The name of Mas’ud Hendi had previously come up in the investigations concerning the murder of two other Iranian exiles in Paris, namely General Oveissi and his brother. The analysis of Vakili Rad and Azadi’s phone conversations led to an Iranian-born Turkish [national], Edipsoy, who had forged fake Turkish passports for the killers in order to enable them to leave France. Prior to and after Dr. Bakhtiar’s murder, two Iranians involved in the plot had made numerous phone calls to Iran's Telecommunications Ministry from Edipsoy’s apartment. Investigations showed that the aforementioned Tehran phone numbers had been used by the Iranian secret police and by members of the assassins’ support team in Geneva. (Liberation, September 20, 1991).

Zeinol’abedin Sarhadi who had come to Switzerland under the pretext of working at the Iranian Embassy, had made hotel reservations for the assassins and had facilitated their escape. Sarhadi had arrived in Switzerland on August 13, 1991, supposedly to work as an archivist in the Iranian embassy in Bern. His mission was, in fact, to help Mr. Katibeh and Mr. Bakhtiar’s murderers escape. Sarhadi’s order to carry out the mission had been issued on July 16, 1991, by Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian Foreign Minister (Le Monde, February 26, 1992). It has been said that two other Iranians, arrested in Istanbul for having provided forged identity papers to the killers, were also said to be affiliated with “Iranian intelligence services”. (Liberation, October 4, 1991). Another defendant, Fereshteh Jahanbani, had rented an apartment in which Boyerahmadi, one of the killers, had gone into hiding in after the crime. She admitted to collaborating with Iran’s intelligence ministry, VAVAK. The police found codes and a special pen with invisible ink in her apartment. She identified Amirollah Teimuri, Iran Air’s chief of security at Paris’ Orly Airport, as her superior. Teimuri was prosecuted for espionage activities on behalf of a foreign power. (Liberation, October 25, 1991).

In addition, French judicial investigations concluded that other individuals including Hossein Sheikh Attar, an official of Iran’s Ministry of Telecommunications at the time, were involved in the planning of this assassination.

Mr. Sorush Katibeh was buried in Paris’ Montparnasse Cemetery, next to Doctor Shapur Bakhtiar.

Iranian Officials’ Reaction

Officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran did not make any statements regarding Sorush Katibeh’s murder. They had, however, not only repeatedly [threatened Mr. Bakhtiar’s life and] reiterated that he had been sentenced to death, but had in fact, dispatched a group of assassins to Paris in 1980, in order to carry out the threats and the death sentence. After successfully implementing the second assassination operation which resulted in the murder of Mr. Bakhtiar and his colleague, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran denied any involvement in the killing of Sorush Katibeh and Shapur Bakhtiar.

The enmity between Dr. Shapur Bakhtiar and the officials of the Islamic Republic went back to the early days of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Dr. Bakhtiar was a jurist and an advocate of democracy, with social democratic leanings. He was one of the leaders of the Iran Party and the National Front, a Mosadeq supporter and a proponent of constitutional monarchy, and fought dictatorship. During the critical days of the Revolution in early 1979, the Shah asked moderate opposition personalities, including Dr. Bakhtiar, to accept the post of prime minister. Bakhtiar, who believed that instituting the rule of law was necessary for a successful transition to democracy, accepted. During his tenure (January 3 to February 11, 1979), he dissolved the secret police (SAVAK), freed all political prisoners, instituted freedom of the press, and eliminated censorship. He warned the people of the emergence of a new form of dictatorship, and insistently asked Iranians to form political parties and labor unions, and prepare themselves for elections.

Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, declared Bakhtiar’s efforts for the establishment of a democratic government futile and asked the people to rise up against him. On February 11, 1979, Bakhtiar’s government fell after the Iranian armed forces pulled their support for his government and announced their neutrality. He went into hiding in Iran and a few months later, in the summer of 1979, left the country and went to France where he immediately founded the first opposition movement to the Islamic Republic. In a speech given on May 6, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini had condemned Bakhtiar to death. On May 17, 1979, in response to human rights supporters who had expressed concerns regarding summary executions in Iran, the Leader of the revolution defended the execution of Amir Abbas Hoveida, who had served as Prime Minister for 13 years, and stated that “any former prime ministers that we are able to find, such as Bakhtiar and Sharif Emami, are sentenced to death.” 

Sadeq Khalkhali, who had been appointed Shari’a Judge by the Leader of the Revolution on February 24, 1979, was given the mission to preside “over tribunals that were convened to try defendants and prisoners,” and issue Islamic/Shari’a-based sentences “upon carrying out all trial preparations based on Shari’a tenets”. Khalkhali had previously found a number of officials of the previous regime to be Mofsed fel-Arz (“one that spreads corruption on earth”, a charge that carries the death sentence) and executed them. Two days after Ayatollah Khomeini’s speech, he called Shapur Bakhtiar Mofsed fel-Arz, a charge that he subsequently repeated in numerous interviews and alluded to a death sentence having been issued for previous prime ministers, including Shapur Bakhtiar. Khalkhali stated that the Islamic Republic had the right to carry out that sentence anywhere in the world. He also stated in an interview with the French weekly L’Express (June 14 to 20, 1980, edition) that Bakhtiar was on an [Islamic republic] black list and a commando unit had been charged with his assassination.***

Less than a month later, that is, on July 18, 1980, the Islamic Republic officials’ first attempt to assassinate Shapur Bakhtiar failed, and a group of terrorists led by a Lebanese Christian by the name of Anis Naccache that had been dispatched to carry out the assassination were arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. (March 10, 1982). In this operation, a police officer and Bakhtiar’s neighbor were shot and killed by the terrorists.

In 1986, a wave of deadly bombings took place in Paris (department stores, a post office, a police station, etc.). A communiqué claiming responsibility for the bombings, sent to a news agency in Lebanon, demanded the release of Naccache and his accomplices. Eventually Naccache and his accomplices were pardoned by President Francois Mitterand (July 27, 1990), and left France for Iran.

In an extensive article regarding the assassination of Bakhtiar and [other members of] the National Resistance Movement (published on September 18, 1991), the semi-official Iranian newspaper, Jomhuri Eslami, denied the Islamic regime’s role in the assassination and concluded that the killing of the leaders of the National Resistance Movement  and other opponents of the regime, and the “successful assassination” of the translators of Salman Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses, which had taken place after the Leader of the Revolution’s Fatwa was issued against Rushdie, resulted in the weakening of the Islamic Republic’s opponents. The article noted that “the French government’s protective ring around the Iranian counter-revolutionaries residing in that country is fragile and penetrable” and emphasized: “Naturally, this vulnerability, and the French police’s inability to protect the refugees’ lives, will result in the counter-revolutionaries losing their trust in their capabilities, especially since not much time has passed since the assassination of Abdorrahman Boroumand, the National Resistance Movement’s number two man (after Bakhtiar), and Sirus Elahi, Manuchehr Ganji’s (leader of the Derafsh-e Kaviani Organization) deputy, in Paris. These murders, along with the successful assassination of the translators of Satanic Verses in Japan and Italy, has increased the counter-revolutionaries’ fear of death manifold.”

In 1992, in a speech on the success of security forces in eliminating the opposition members, Ali Fallahian, the Islamic Republic’s then-Minister of Information stated: “… We succeeded in inflicting major blows to many of these little groups outside the country and along the border.” (Speech broadcast on Tate Radio and Television on August 31, 1992; quoted from Asr-e Iran, May 19, 2010).

Ali Vakili Rad was pardoned in May 2010 and returned to Iran, Hassan Qasgqavi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Deputy for Consular Affairs, and Kazem Jalali, the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s (“Majless” or Parliament) Head of the National Security Committee officially welcomed him at the airport. He was called “a model of resistance” and a “hero” in the welcoming ceremonies. (Radio Farda, May 19, 2010).

French Authorities’ Reaction

The French Judiciary’s investigations of the extrajudicial killings of Mr. Katibeh and Mr. Bakhtiar lasted more than three years, the result of which was a very thick 8300-page case file. Ali Vakili Rad, one of the assassins, was arrested in Geneva on August 21, 1991, and Sarhadi was turned over by Swiss authorities to France upon the latter’s request. France also issued arrest warrants for Vakili Rad’s other accomplices who had fled France and Switzerland under murky and suspicious circumstances.

On October 22, 1991, Judge Bruguière issued an international arrest warrant for Hossein Sheikh Attar for “collusion in murder, conspiracy, and violation of the law regarding a terrorist act”. (Le Monde, October 26, 1991). Sheikh Attar was the technical adviser to the Iranian Ministry of Telecommunications for its Satellite Communication Program. This Ministry is known for its close connections to Iranian intelligence services. On April 21, 1993, Bruguière issued arrest warrants for two other Iranian officials. The first, Gholamhossein Shurideh Shirazinejad, who was already well known in business circles, had asked Comatra, a Swiss firm, to issue an invitation for a ‘friend’ [for purposes of obtaining an entry visa]. The ‘friend’ was in fact one of the killers who obtained a visa to enter Switzerland. The other suspect, Nasser Qaseminejad, was an [Iranian] intelligence official in Geneva. He had helped the terrorists to go back to Iran (Le Figaro, 22 April 1993).

Three of the defendants, who, according to available information, were represented by highly experienced attorneys charging hefty legal fees (Abdolkarim Lahiji, BBC, August 4, 2011), were tried by the Paris Special Criminal Court (la Cour d’Assises Speciales) from November 2 through December 6, 1994. Members of France’s civil society, including the organization SOS Attentat, and the International Federation for Human Rights, were among the plaintiffs. The Court found Ali Vakili Rad guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. (French Judiciary authorities pardoned him 16 years later). Mas’ud Hendi, was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for his role as an accomplice in the terrorist conspiracy. Zeinolabedin Sarhadi was acquitted and sent back to Iran.

Gholam Hossein Shurideh Shirazinejad and Hossein Sheikh Attar, the adviser to the Iranian Ministry of Telecommunications, Nasser Qaseminejad, Fereidun Boyerahmadi and Mohammad Azadi, an officer of the Revolutionary Guards, were all tried in absentia, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison on June 16, 1995.

The French President, François Mitterand, acknowledged the responsibility of the regime of the Islamic Republic in Mr. Katibeh and Doctor Bakhtiar’s assassination, and cancelled his visit to Tehran scheduled for the fall of 1991, in protest. (Interview with Yedioth Ahronoth , November 20, 1992).

Family’s Reaction

There is no information available regarding Mr. Katibeh’s family’s Reaction.

Impact on the Family

There is no information available regarding the impact of Mr. Katibeh’s murder on his family.


* Sources: Confidential biographic data dated November 10, 1952, concerning Bakhtiar’s biography, United States State Department Archives.
Kayhan newspaper, May 14, and 17, 1979.
Shapur Bakhtiar’s memoirs: “Ma Fidelite”, Albin Michel, 1982.
Le Figaro, July 19, 1980; France Soir, July 18, 1980, and July 19, 1980; Paris Match, August 1, 1980; Le Monde, July 19, 1980, February 27, 1982, MMarch 5, and 12 1982; L’Express, June 14 to 20, 1980, July 26 to August 1, 1980.
The New York times, July 28, 1990.
Donyaye Eqtesad, January 21, 2013
Land Info (Swedish Immigration Administration) regarding Iran’s social welfare regime in 1399 (2020-21).
Islamic Revolution Documents Center, June 3, 2020.
** Read more about the background of extrajudicial killings in the Islamic Republic of Iran by clicking on the left hand highlight with the same title.
*** After returning to Iran, Fereidun Boyerahmadi, Shapur Bakhtiar’s killer, began working under the name Farhad Mahdyar as the Executive Director of Qazvin Province Grains and Commercial Services Company.

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