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 April 8, 2021


German government persecutes Iranian activist

The German government has taken unprecedented steps to isolate Iranian activist Abolghassem Mesbahi, 61, cutting off his ability to find work, contact the media, maintain a bank account or travel, in outright violation of German and European Union law, international human rights standards, the United Nations Charter, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran urges all like-minded human rights organizations to read Mesbahi's declaration, which we publish below (Permalink here), and to raise Mesbahi's case with members of the Bundestag, the German government, and international organizations.

If you are financially able, please consider sending a donation to the special page we have set up to help Mesbahi and his family. Contributions are not tax-deductible.

Mesbahi initially came to Germany in 1996 as a political refugee, and subsequently acquired German citizenship along with his family.

For many years, he was forced by the German government to live a clandestine existence in the witness protection program, as he was assisting federal prosecutors in the Mykonos case. Known as "Witness C" to the media during the 1996 trial, his testimony ultimately led the German court to indict top Iranian government officials, including the Supreme Leader and then-president Hashemi-Rafsanjani, for their role in ordering the assassination of Kurdish dissident leaders Sadegh Sharafkindi, Fattah Abdoli and Homayoun Ardalan, and translator Nouri Dehkordi, at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin on September 17, 1992.

(For more details on the Mykonos case, see the report from the Iran Human Rights Documentation, here).

He was also a witness in the Iran-9/11 case (Havlish v. Osama bin Laden et al) in the Southern District of New York that ultimately led to more than $16 billion in damages against the government of the Islamic regime in Iran.

Mesbahi and his family have been thrown out of their apartment in Germany and are currently living thanks to assistance from local churches. The German government has denied him access to health care and the social welfare safety net afforded to all German citizens, in violation of German law. As Mesbahi told FDI, "the German government has placed me in a category of one. No one else in this country is treated this way."

When Mesbahi attempted to relocate to Canada several years ago, the German government intervened with Canadian authorities to get him expelled from the country.

We believe this outrageous persecution of a brave defector and human rights advocate stems from the crass material interests of German industry, which sees Iran as a cash cow for German exports. But more important, it demonstrates to abject political cowardice of German leaders from 1999 until today. Shame on you, Gerhard Schroeder! Shame on you, Angela Merkel!

Statement of Abdolghassem Mesbahi:

My name is Abolghasem Mesbahi. I was born on Dec. 17, 1959 in Tehran, Iran.


I was an active member of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and became a high ranking employee of the intelligence services and foreign ministry in Iran 


In 1996 I appeared as a prosecution witness in the Mykonos trial in Berlin, Germany, where I testified about my knowledge of the Iranian government’s direct involvement in the assassination of Iranian Kurdish dissidents at a Berlin restaurant in 1992.


Out of concerns for my safety, the prosecutors referred to me in public as Witness C.


Based largely on my testimony, the court found that the Iranian regime Supreme Leader, the President, and other top government officials were legally responsible for the murders, and I myself became a target of Iranian government hit teams. The German ministry of interior consequently placed me in their witness protection program.


In 1998, Gerhard Schröder, then head of the Socialist Party (SPD), became the German chancellor and invited Iranian president Khatami to Germany. During this trip, based on the new SPD policy toward Iran, Germany established security and intelligence cooperation with Iran. This had disastrous consequences for me and my family.


Starting in early 1999, the Bundesverfassungsschutz (BfV), German’s domestic intelligence organization, put pressure on me and my family so I decided to leave witness protection program for my own safety.


At first, this pressure took the form of cutting me off from all political and media contacts. For example, every time I had a TV interview or appeared in a court as a witness against the Iranian regime, they would try to discredit me and block me from those contacts. They also contacted my employers in the energy sector and got me fired from several jobs. Three times I was forced to sleep in the streets because the BfV had cut of my source of income.


In 2014 I had an interview in London with an Iranian opposition television that was rebroadcast by al Jazeera.


After that interview, the BfV closed my bank account and issued a notice to all German banks, ordering them not to open any new accounts for me.


The BfV also informed the state unemployment agency that I was ineligible for employment, because I posed a security risk to potential employers.


This effectively blocked my ability to earn a living and to support my family.


From that time on, I have been unable to get a job or to conduct private or political activities. The BfV also blocked state welfare agencies from providing public assistance to me or my family, despite the fact that we had become German citizens and were eligible for public assistance.


They also blocked me from accessing the pension credits I had earned.


They even prevented me from permanently leaving Germany, despite offers from friends and even government officials in other countries to help me and my family leave Germany.


In effect, I became a prisoner of the state without ever being charged with a crime or brought before a court of law. In what type of country can the government prevent a citizen from leaving the country?”


Many people can testify to my situation.


In 2016, I wrote a private declaration testifying to these criminal acts by the BfV against me and my family and delivered it to Kommissar Mettmann Hoher, an official with the local police. He contacted the BfV and was told that they were punishing me because of my interview with Al Jazeera. Kommissar Mettmann even showed me a copy of the interview the BfV had given him.


But because of the power of the BfV, Kommissar Mettmann said he could not help me, and the BfV increased the pressure on me and my family, isolating us from all outside contacts. I call this type of isolation “white torture.”


The BfV was able to completely destroy my ability to provide for my family. Now my  14-year-old daughter puts her head on my shoulder and cries for fear of starvation.


I have become the sacrificial lamb of the BfV, who punish me so the German government and German industry can benefit from their close relationship to the government of the Islamic regime in Iran.


I call on all international humanitarian organizations to come to my aid. Please help me and my family to leave Germany for any other country in Europe, the United States or Canada, so that I can work and live again!


Abolghasem Mesbahi

- Witness C of the Mykonos trial

- Witness in the AMIA trial

- Witness in the 9/11-Iran case

Kenneth R. Timmerman is President of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.