AFP: An Iranian jailed for life in Germany for the 1992 murder of four Kurdish dissidents which a Berlin court said was ordered by Tehran is to be released early, prosecutors said Thursday. KARLSRUHE, Germany (AFP) An Iranian jailed for life in Germany for the 1992 murder of four Kurdish dissidents which a Berlin court said was ordered by Tehran is to be released early, prosecutors said Thursday.
Kazem Darabi, who was sentenced in 1997 for the bloodbath in a restaurant, could be freed as soon as December, and would then be deported to Iran, federal prosecutor Frank Wallenta said.
The trial set off a diplomatic crisis between Europe and Iran when the German judges fingered the Iranian leadership for the first time as a sponsor of state terror.
Tehran has tried for years to secure the liberation of Darabi, whom Berlin branded an Iranian secret agent. His name figured in several rounds of negotiations on potential prisoner swaps.
An accomplice, Lebanese national Abbas Rhayel, will also go free and be deported, Wallenta said. Rhayel is believed to be a member of the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
“Now that the accused have served more than 15 years of their sentence, the conditions have been met for such a decision,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement announcing the men’s impending release.
Under German law, life sentences are reviewed after 15 years to decide whether the guilty party can be released.
The five years Darabi spent in jail before he was convicted counted toward his sentence.
When the Berlin court found Darabi guilty, it ruled that because of the severity of the charges against him, he should be held in prison for more than 15 years.
The federal prosecutors’ decision marked a surprise reversal of that ruling. They had said in 2006 that they intended to keep Darabi in prison beyond this December.
Iran had long pressed for Darabi’s release and attempted to link it to a deal on the case of German holidaymaker Donald Klein, who unwittingly violated Iranian territorial waters while fishing. Klein was set free in March.
The case of Darabi was also frequently mentioned in German-brokered talks over the fate of Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad, missing since October 1986 when his plane was shot down over southern Lebanon.
Israel had originally demanded information about Arad from Lebanon as a condition of future prisoner swaps with Hezbollah, but there have been persistent rumours that he was handed over to Iran by another Shiite militia, Amal.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had called German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to convince Berlin not to release Darabi.
But it said Merkel rebuffed his appeal, telling him that the authorities would follow the letter of the law.
Relations between Europe and Iran plunged to freezing point over the verdict in the killings at Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant, with ambassadors from both sides recalled for several months.
Those killed in the bloodbath included the head of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), Sadegh Charafkandi, who was attending a international meeting of socialists in Berlin.
Two other defendants in the case were convicted in Germany. Mohamed Atris served the full five and a half years to which he was sentenced while Yusself Amin was deported to Lebanon after serving more than half of an 11-year sentence.