The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyce Hens Green, District Judge.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
This is an action for wrongful death brought by Dariush Elahi,*fn1 the
brother of Cyrus Elahi, a United States national, who, before he was
killed on October 23, 1990 in Paris, France, was a former university
professor and a dissident of the Iranian regime. The Islamic Republic of
Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security are named as
defendants for ordering the killing of Cyrus Elahi in an act of
state-sponsored assassination. Jurisdiction in this case is founded upon
those provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976
("FSIA"), as amended, 28 U.S.C. § 1602-1611, that grant jurisdiction
over foreign states and their officials and agents and that create
federal causes of action for personal injury or death to American
nationals resulting from state-sponsored terrorism.
Defendants have failed to enter an appearance in this lawsuit,
notwithstanding the fact that service of process was made upon them in
accordance with the statutory procedures. See 28 U.S.C. § 1608
(a)(4).*fn2 On August 14, 2000, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1608 (e) and
R.Civ.P. 55(a), the Court entered an order of default against the
defendants. Before the Court may enter a judgment by default in a
specific monetary amount against the defendants, the FSIA provides that
the plaintiff "establish [ ] his claim or right to relief by evidence
that is satisfactory to the Court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608 (e).*fn3
Accordingly, on November 8 and 9, 2000, the Court conducted a non-jury
trial*fn4 at which the plaintiff presented the testimony of seven
witnesses: Kenneth Roger Timmerman, Executive Director, Foundation for
Democracy; Ladan Boroumand, Ph.D.; Jacques S. Boedels, Armand, Boedels &
Associates; Dariush Elahi; Jerome S. Paige, Ph.D.; Patrick J. Clawson,
Ph. D.; and Manouchehr Ganji, Secretary-General, Flag of Freedom
Organization. Documentary evidence consisting of 106 exhibits also was
introduced in support of plaintiff's claims. Because Iran has presented
no defense, the Court will accept as true the plaintiff's uncontroverted
evidence. See Higgins v. Islamic Republic of Iran, No. 99-377 (D.D.C.
Sept. 21, 2000) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.); cf. Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba,
996 F. Supp. 1239, 1243 (S.D.Fla. 1997) (accepting as true the
plaintiff's "uncontroverted factual allegations").
This Court has engaged in a systematic review of the evidence presented
by the plaintiff and the legal issues raised by plaintiff's claim for
relief. Upon the evidence adduced at trial, from which the following
facts are found pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 52(a), the Court concludes
that, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1608 (e), the plaintiff has
"establish[ed] his claim or right to relief by evidence that is
satisfactory to the court." Accordingly, judgment shall be rendered in
favor of the plaintiff as more fully set forth below.
1. The defendant, the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran"), is a foreign
state that was founded in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini following the
overthrow of the prior government of the Shah of Iran. In 1989, after the
death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani became
President and remained in that position into the 1990's. The current
President of Iran is Mohammed Khatemi.
2. The United States Department of State has designated Iran as being a
leading sponsor of terrorism for over a decade. Iran's direct support of
terrorist activities has prompted the United States to suspend diplomatic
relations, impose trade restrictions, and participate in the
international embargo of the country. See, e.g., Iran and Libya Sanctions
Act of 1996, Pub.L. 104-72, 10th Cong., 2d Sess. (Aug. 5, 1996), 110
Stat. 1541; 31 C.F.R. § 596.201 (prohibiting exports and sales to
Iran). President Clinton recently reaffirmed and renewed sanctions
against Iran when on March 15, 2000, he issued a Notice continuing the
"national emergency" with respect to Iran "[b]ecause the actions and
policies of the Government of Iran," including "its support for
continue to "threaten the security, foreign policy and economy of the
United States." Exhibit 15.
3. Iran uses several different organizations to carry out its pattern
of terrorist activities. One of these organizations is the defendant
Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS"), the Iranian intelligence
service.*fn5 With approximately 30,000 employees, MOIS is the largest
intelligence agency in the Middle East and has an approximate annual
budget of between $100-$400 million. See Anderson, 90 F. Supp.2d at
112-13 (finding MOIS's approximate annual budget between $100-$500
million). The United States Department of State has concluded that
Iranian intelligence services facilitate and direct terrorist attacks,
including attacks against regime opponents living abroad. Moreover, this
policy is conducted with the "approval of the highest levels of the
Iranian regime. . . ."*fn6 United States Department of State, Patterns
of Global Terrorism: 1991, April 1992, at 30; Exhibit 3.
4. At the time of the events at issue in this case, the Iranian
Minister of Intelligence and head of MOIS was Ayatollah Fallahian. As
explained by Dr. Clawson, Minister Fallahian actively participated in the
creation of MOIS and was the most important decision maker within the
5. Individuals implicated in the killing of Cyrus Elahi confirmed,
under oath, to French authorities that Minister Fallahian was involved in
ordering the killings of Iranian dissidents in Paris. Exhibit 58, p. 4;
Exhibit 59, p. 110. German prosecutorial authorities, moreover, have
issued a warrant for Minister Fallahian's arrest for ordering the 1992
assassination of Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Germany. In a 1992
interview on Iranian television, Minister Fallahian discussed MOIS'
success in eliminating opponents of the regime, stating: "[W]e track them
abroad too . . . . Last year we succeeded in striking fundamental blows
to their top members." Exhibit 74; Tr. 341 (Ganji); Exhibit 45; Exhibit
6. Following the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a
number of organizations were formed outside the country in opposition to
the clerical government. Mr. Timmerman, an expert on the Iranian
government's sponsorship of terrorism, identified several of these
opposition groups: the Flag of Freedom Organization, founded by Dr.
Manoucher Ganji, the former Minister of Education in the Shah's regime,
and his assistant, Cyrus Elahi; the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran,
which advocates a secular democracy for Kurds living in Northern Iran;
the National Council of Resistance, which is dominated by the People's
Mojahedin of Iran, an allegedly Marxist organization, based in Turkey and
Iraq; the Constitutional Monarchist Organization; and the National
Resistance Movement, organized by the exiled former Iranian Prime
Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, and his deputy Abdolrahman Boroumand, who,
according to Kenneth Timmerman, were later both assassinated by agents of
the Iranian government.
8. According to Dr. Clawson, the Iranian government's initial campaign
of assassinations proved successful and, accordingly, the clerics
consolidated their power in Iran. A renewed concentration of
assassinations began in 1989 following the end of the Iran-Iraq war and
the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini. At that time, Mr. Rafsanjani assumed
the presidency of Iran and in order to solidify his power, the government
"redoubled its activities" to eliminate opponents of the regime. Tr. 235
(Clawson). Dr. Clawson explained that based upon his research, he
determined that "Mr. Rafsanjani devoted a lot of attention, a lot of
resources" to directing these assassinations and evidence of direct
Iranian involvement in those assassinations comes "from numerous accounts
just how much priority Mr. Rafsanjani placed on this campaign." Tr. 235
(Clawson). Dr. Clawson testified that there were a "great many killings"
during this campaign, and Iran "assassinated some of the top leaders of
the major [opposition] organizations." Tr. 237, 240-41 (Clawson).
9. The scope of the terrorist activities launched against those
organizations opposed to the current Iranian government and others has
been worldwide. The testimony and documentary evidence introduced at
trial, including reports by the United States and foreign governmenta
authorities, human rights groups, and the world press indicate that Iran
and MOIS have authorized, sponsored, and directed the assassination of
critics and opponents of the Iranian regime in countries throughout the
world. Criminal investigations in both France and Germany and the
decisions of the courts of those countries have found evidence of direct
involvement by the government of Iran, MOIS, and Minister Fallahian in
the killings of opponents of the Tehran regime. Exhibits 58, 59
(France); Exhibits 18, 46, 47, 48 (Germany). The Parliamentary Human
Rights Group of the Palace of Westminster in Great Britain has documented
the Iranian government's "use of terrorism as an adjunct to foreign
policy." Exhibit 17, p. 5 Amnesty International has issued reports
describing Iran's use of torture, terrorism and possible assassination as
instruments of state policy. Reports in the world press have further
documented the actions of the Iranian government in oppressing its
11. Dr. Ganji's key assistant in building in FFO was Cyrus Elahi, whom
Dr. Ganji had known for many years. Dr. Elahi was born in Iran in 1943.
He came to the United States in 1958 with his mother and three siblings
to join his father who previously had emigrated to the United States to
pursue his medical education. In 1961, Dr. Elahi and his siblings became
naturalized United States citizens. Cyrus Elahi attended school in the
United States and received his undergraduate degree and his Ph.D. from
American University in Washington, DC.
12. In the 1970's Dr. Elahi returned to Iran. Dr. Elahi became an
assistant professor of political science at the National University in
Tehran and, with Dr. Ganji, participated in a "think tank" that submitted
reports on Iranian economic, social, and political developments to the
wife of the Shah "in the hope of improving the situation." Tr. 274-75
(Ganji). When Dr. Ganji was named Minister of Education, Dr. Elahi became
his close advisor.
13. Following the Khomeini revolution in 1979, both Dr. Ganji and Dr.
Elahi went into hiding. A list of 200 individuals, including Dr. Ganji
and Dr. Elahi, deemed to be opponents and enemies of the new regime and
calling for their arrest, was posted in the mosques throughout Iran.
According to Dr. Ganji, in addition to the posting of this list, a Fatwa
(religious edict) has been issued calling for Dr. Ganji's death and both
Dr. Ganji and Dr. Elahi understood that a similar edict was issued for
Dr. Elahi's assassination.*fn8
14. After the revolution, Dr. Elahi bid Dr. Ganji in his home and,
then, assisted Dr. Ganji in fleeing Iran. After aiding Dr. Ganji in his
escape, Dr. Elahi and his wife fled the country shortly thereafter. Both
Dr. Ganji and Dr. Elahi settled in the United States. For several years,
Dr. Elahi lived in Texas, California, and Michigan. At that time, Dr.
Elahi's sister was attending the University of Michigan, and he became an
associate professor of political science at Michigan State University, in
part, to be close to her. Later, Dr. Elahi left his teaching position to
join Dr. Ganji, who was then living in Dallas, Texas, to assist him in
running an educational and cultural foundation.
15. In 1985, Dr. Ganji relocated to Paris to work with other Iranian
exiles in seeking a free and democratic Iran. In mid-1986, Dr. Elahi
joined Dr. Ganji in Paris and both of them established the Flag of
Freedom Organization to actively promote the establishment of a
pluralistic society in Iran.
16. In October 1990, French authorities informed Dr. Ganji that they
had uncovered a plan to assassinate him, and, at their suggestion, he
left Paris and went to Egypt. At the time, Dr. Elahi was in Munich,
Germany. However, he returned to Paris and on the morning of October 23,
1990, as he was leaving his apartment building, Dr. Elahi was shot eight
times and killed by an assassin using a gun with a silencer. Exhibit 59,
p. 82. Although Dr. Elahi normally did not leave his apartment building
unaccompanied, on the morning he was assassinated, he was delayed and
missed the colleague whom he customarily would meet to accompany him to
the FFO offices.
17. As the attorney for the Elahi family in France, Mr. Boedels
reviewed the investigatory reports and the evidence compiled by
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Senior Examining Magistrate of the District Court
of Paris. Exhibits 58, 59. Judge Bruguiere opened two files on the Elahi
assassination, the first for his murder and the second for "association
of wrongdoers," which is equivalent to a charge of conspiracy. Tr. 120
(Boedels). Judge Bruguiere's inquiry into Dr. Elahi's death implicated
two Iranian nationals living in Paris, Mojtaba Mashadi and Hossein
18. According to the French indictment of Mr. Mashadi, handed down by
the Appellate Court of Paris, Second Criminal Panel, a gun and a silencer
were found on the premises of Dr. Elahi's apartment building.
19. Under interrogation, Mr. Yazdanseta confessed to having been part
of a plot, to assassinate Iranian political dissidents in Paris. Mr.
Yazdanseta stated under oath to Judge Bruguiere that Mr. Mashadi had
stated that he had been entrusted in Tehran with the organization of the
assassination of Cyrus Elahi. Exhibit 58 at 11; Exhibit 59 at 96-99.
According to Mr. Yazdanseta's sworn statement to Judge Brugniere, he had
a conversation with Mr. Mashadi in July or August of 1993 at Mr.
Mashadi's home. During that conversation, Mr. Mashadi admitted that he
was the organizer of the operation to assassinate Cyrus Elahi, that a gun
and silencer had been given to him in Paris by Iranian contacts, and that
he had enlisted a Mr. Ghorbanifar to assassinate Cyrus Elahi, but that
Mr. Ghorbanifar had backed out at the last minute. Exhibit 59 at 97-99.
According to Mr. Yazdanseta's sworn statement, the assassination was then
carried out by another team of two or three men, but Mr. Mashadi had not
given him any more information how the assassination was carried out. In
referring the indictment of Mojtaba Mashadi to the Court of Assize of
Paris, the Appellate Court of Paris relied on, among other things, the
fact that Mr. Yazdanseta stated under oath that Mr. Mashadi had confide
to him that he had been put in charge of organizing the assassination of
Cyrus Elahi. Exhibit 59 at 83.
20. Other witnesses testified that Mr Mashadi was a MOIS agent in
France and that he had traveled to Iran to meet with Minister Fallahian
and Minister Fallahian had given orders to Mashadi to assassinate
dissidents. Mr. Boedels testified to this Court that Mr. Ghorbanifar had
stated under oath to Judge Bruguiere that Mr. Mashadi had told him that
he had been to Iran and met with Minister Fallahian. According to the
record of Mr. Ghorbanifar's testimony under oath to Judge Bruguiere,
taken on April 11, 1995, Mr. Mashadi told Mr. Ghorbanifar that he had
been to Tehran in November 1989 and met with Minister Fallahian and other
members of MOIS. Mr. Mashadi told Mr. Ghorbanifar that he had been put in
charge of organizing the assassination of Dr. Ganji and several other
dissidents (but did not mention Dr. Elahi). This conversation took place
upon Mr. Mashadi's return from Tebran. According to Mr. Ghorbanifar, Mr.
Mashadi told him this in an attempt to gain his assistance in carrying
out the assassination of Dr. Ganji. Instead, Mr. Ghorbanifar revealed the
information to the French authorities, who alerted Dr. Ganji to the
21. Mr. Ghorbanifar also testified to Judge Bruguiere that in 1989, he
accompanied Mr. Mashadi to a meeting at the Orly; airport. Also present
at this meeting, according to Mr. Ghorbanifar, was Ali Ahani, the Iranian
Ambassador; Mr. Anguizi, the manager of Iran Air; and a man identified as
Bagher. Later, according to Mr. Ghorbanifar, Mr. Mashadi identified
Bagher as an agent of Iran.
22. Mr. Farhad Ghiasvand, an acquaintance of Mr. Mashadi, gave two
sworn statements to Judge Bruguiere. In the sworn statement dated June
23, 1994, Mr. Ghiasvand stated that he had met Mr. Mashadi in Tehran in
1989, and Mr. Mashadi
had told him that he was working for MOIS, and he had contact with
Minister Fallahian. Mr. Mashadi importuned Mr. Ghiasvand to assist him in
assassinating a Iranian dissident in Paris. Exhibit 59 at 101. In the
sworn statement dated January 10, 1994, Mr. Ghiasvand stated that Mr.
Mashadi had identified Dr. Elahi as the target of the plot. Mr. Ghiasvand
declined to participate. Exhibit 59 at 124. In both statements, Mr.
Ghiasvand recounted that he had a further discussion with Mr. Mashadi in
mid-1993, in which he reminded Mr. Mashadi of the prior conversation.
According to Mr. Ghiasvand, Mr. Mashadi, threatened to "denounce [him] to
the police" and denied the prior conversation. Exhibit 59 at 102, 124.
23. On December 29, 1993, Mr. Ali Reza Ghanaee Miandoab was questioned
by the French police. Mr. Miandoab stated that in December 1992, Mojtaba
Mashadi, whom he had known for about thirty years, had asked him whether
he would assist in the assassination of an individual named Shafa and
Dr. Ganji. Mr. Miandoab declined the request. According to Mr. Miandoab,
Mr. Mashadi further stated that he was acting on behalf of the Iranian
intelligence and that he had arranged for Mr. Ghorbanifar to kill Cyrus
Elahi, but that he had backed out. Finally, Mr. Mashadi stated to Mr.
Miandoab that Iranian intelligence agents, with whom he had contact in
Iran, had been sent to Paris to carry out the assassination of Cyrus
Elahi. Exhibit 59 at 108.
24. The evidence gathered by Judge Bruguiere strongly indicates that
the original plot, as conceived by MOIS, was to assassinate a number of
individuals opposed to the Tebran regime, including Dr. Ganji, Dr. Cyrus
Elahi, and others. Tr. 130 (Boedels). According to Mr. Boedels, who
testified to this Court, Mr. Mashadi importuned Mr. Yazdanseta and Mr.
Ghorbanifar to carry out the plot. Mr. Mashadi offered Mr. Yazdanseta
money to take the photograph of Dr. Ganji or Cyrus Elahi and told him
that he would be paid an additional sum if he would kill the person so
identified. Tr. 131 (Boedels). Mr. Mashadi also enlisted the assistance
of Mr. Ghorbanifar. However, Mr. Ghorbanifar did not continue with the
conspiracy. Instead, he contacted the French secret service and provided
information to the French authorities. Mr. Ghorbanifar's revelations
prompted the French authorities to warn Dr. Ganji that his assassination
25. In addition to testimony obtained through the interrogation of
Messrs. Mashadi, Yazdanseta, and Ghorbanifar, Judge Bruguiere also
obtained answers to written questions of a high ranking Iranian
defector, who had been detained by German authorities. This defector,
Mr. Mesbahi, confirmed to Judge Bruguiere that the assassination of Dr.
Elahi was organized and executed by Iranian government officials. Tr. 129
(Boedels); Exhibit 59 at 84.
26. Messrs. Mashadi and Yazdanseta were tried before the Paris Supreme
Criminal Court, and, in September 1996, they were convicted of conspiracy
to commit terrorist acts, including the planned assassinations of Dr.
Ganji and Cyrus Elahi. Mr. Mashadi was sentenced to seven years'
imprisonment and Mr. Yazdanseta to three years' imprisonment. ...