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Bakhtiar v. Islamic Republic of Iran

July 17, 2008

SHAHINTAJ BAKHTIAR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

This action is brought pursuant to the state-sponsored terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7),*fn1 by Shahintaj Bakhtiar ("Shahintaj"), who is the widow of Chapour Bakhtiar ("Chapour"), individually and as a representative of Chapour's estate, Chapour's son Goudard Bakhtiar ("Goudard"), and Chapour's stepdaughter Manijeh Assad Bakhtiar ("Manijeh") against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS"), which is Iran's intelligence agency. Chapour is the former Prime Minister of Iran, and this action arises out of his August 6, 1991, assassination. This court entered default against defendants on April 3, 2007, and held a damages trial on November 27, 2007. At the trial, the court took judicial notice of the findings of fact and conclusions of law in Rafii v. Islamic Republic of Iran and Ministry of Information and Security, 01-cv-850 (D.D.C. Dec. 2, 2002) ("Rafii Findings").*fn2 Based upon the Rafii findings of fact and conclusions of law and the evidence presented at the damages trial, the court makes the following:

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

A. Iran's Policy of Assassinating Dissidents

1. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeni became the leader of Iran after leading an insurrection against the Shah of Iran. Rafii Findings 1.*fn3 Under Ayatollah Khomeini's rule, Iran adopted a policy of assassinating dissidents at home and abroad. Iran has been linked to the assassination of leaders from the following Iranian dissident groups: the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, the National Council of Resistance, the Mujaheddin, the National Movement for the Iranian Resistance ("NAMIR"), and the Flag of Freedom. These assassinations have inhibited the activities of these Iranian resistance groups, as well as the activities of other groups. Id. at 15-17.

2. Iran's involvement in the assassination of political dissidents waned in the later years of Ayatollah Khomeini's regime. Beginning in 1989, however, with the end of the Iran-Iraq war and the appointment of Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as President of Iran, there was a rash of assassinations of dissidents abroad, as well as a general period of increased Iranian-sponsored terrorism in general. Dissidents were murdered in Austria, Switzerland, France, German, Iraq, Turkey, and the United States. Id. at 16.

3. Iran has admitted that MOIS has engaged in the killing of dissidents. Indeed, Ayatollah Fallahian, who was in charge of MOIS at the time of Chapour's murder, made public comments taking responsibility for the killing of members of foreign-based groups that oppose the Iranian regime. Id. at 3-4.

4. Since 1984, the United States State Department has designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. Id. at 2.

B. Chapour Bakhtiar

5. Chapour earned a Ph.D. in law and philosophy. During World War II, he fought with the French resistance, worked in the labor movement in Iran, and advocated for democracy. He could easily have joined the government of the Shah and ascended to the highest offices. Id. at 10. Instead, Chapour served in opposition to the regime, often spending time in jail as a result of his political activities. Id. In January of 1979, shortly before Ayatollah Khomeini's insurrection, Chapour was appointed Prime Minister of Iran, and he served in that capacity for thirty-seven days. Id. at 11.

6. After the fall of the government, Chapour remained popular. This worried Iran's new government and put his life in danger. On May 14, 1979, Ayatollah Kalkhali, a religious judge and chairman of Iran's Revolutionary Court announced in an interview in the Iranian paper Kayan, his intention to eliminate "the corrupters on earth," and specifically named Chapour as someone who had incurred the death penalty. Id. at 12. The phrase "corrupter on earth" indicates that a fatwa, or a religious judgment, had been issued for Chapour's death. This fatwa instructed Muslims anywhere in the world that they could kill Chapour. Ayatollah Kahlkahli reiterated the fatwa on Chapour's life on December 7, 1979. Id.

7. After hiding in Iran, Chapour fled to Paris where he founded NAMIR with Dr. Abdul Rahman Boroumand. NAMIR was a major Iranian dissident group based outside of Iran. Id. at 13.

8. In 1980, there was a failed attempt to kill Chapour in Paris. A gunman killed a policeman and neighbor in the attack, but failed to kill Chapour. An individual named Anish Naccache was found guilty of the attack, and the French court found that Naccache was acting pursuant to the order of Ayatollah Khomeini to assassinate Chapour. Id. at 14.

9. After the attempted assassination in 1980, Chapour lived under heavy security. A police truck with policemen was stationed outside his home, and the basement of his house was turned into guard quarters where four special police from the French riot squad lived. Bakhtiar restricted his excursions outside his home, and when he did leave his house he was transported in armored cars. His son, Guy Bakhtiar, was a French policeman and was in charge of security for Chapour. Before anyone, including his own family, could visit Chapour, they had to submit to a search and present a passport that was kept by the police until the visitor left. Id. at 18.

10. On August 6, 1991, Guy Bakhtiar left Paris on a two-day trip. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Chapour received an expected visit from Farydoun Boyerahmadi, a member of NAMIR and a close associate. Boyerahmadi was accompanied by Mohammad Azadi and Ali Vakili Rad. Chapour had never met Azadi or Rad. Id. at19.

11. Boyerahmadi was an Iranian agent who successfully infiltrated NAMIR. He and the two other men murdered Chapour and his assistant, Foroush Katibeh, using two kitchen knives and took efforts to mutilate Chapour's body. Id.

12. Chapour's murder was not discovered until Guy Bakhtiar returned from his trip on August 8, 1991. Id.

C. Iran's Role in the Assassination

13. A French Judge, Magistrate Judge Jean-Louis Brugueire, investigated Chapour's murder.*fn4 He concluded that Boyerahmadi, Rad, and Azadi perpetrated the murder and that Iran was responsible for the assassination. Id. at 22.

14. Judge Bruguiere described Iran's involvement in the murder plot as follows: On May 29, 1991, in Teheran, two passports were delivered to Vakili Rad and Azadi under the assumed names of Kamal Hosseini and Norian. The Iranian public authorities in charge of passport delivery were either disorganized, or were acting in coordination with two of Chapour's murders. Judge Bruguiere found the second alternative was the more likely option considering that in June and July 1991 some of the representatives of the Iranian High-Ranking Civil Service -- businessmen and members of the Iranian Consular Staff -- were connected to the assassination. Id. In mid-June 1991, Hossein Sheik Attar, a member of the Iranian Telecommunication Civil Service, arranged via Seyed Hendi,*fn5 to obtain business invitations for Rad and Azadi from the French company Syfax -- a necessary requirement for the approval of their visas. At the same time, Shoorideh Shirazi, an Iranian businessman and "VIP,"*fn6 arranged for the entry of Nasser Ghasmi Nejad into Switzerland in order to facilitate the escape of the assassins. Id. On July 16, 1991, the State Department of the Islamic Republic of Iran delivered an assignment order to Zeynolabedine Sarhadi so that he would reach Switzerland between July 21 and October 21, 1991. Sarhadi was an employee from the Iranian Department of State, and he personally helped and assisted Ghasmi Nejad and Azadi. Judge Brugueire also concluded that "the conspiracy kept functioning within [the Iranian Department of Telecommunications] during the period corresponding to that of the murderers' escape." Id. The "conspiracy of criminal purpose was organized according to a three-pole pattern: Department of ...


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