Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

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9780802119117: Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

On the evening of September 17, 1992, eight leading members of the Iranian and Kurdish opposition had gathered at a little-known restaurant in Berlin when two darkly-clad men burst through the entrance. Within moments, the roar of a machine gun filled the air. Two rounds of fire and four single shots later, four of the men were dead in what would become known as the Mykonos assassinations. One of the survivors of that shooting, along with the widow of one of the victims and a handful of reporters, attorneys, and fellow exiles, began a crusade that would not only pit them against Tehran but against some of the greatest powers in Germany. When an undeterred federal prosecutor, and an endlessly patient chief judge, took over the Mykonos trial, a historic verdict followed which shook both Europe and Iran, and achieved something few could have predicted--justice. Roya Hakakian's The Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is an incredible book of history and reportage spanning Europe and the Middle East, and an unforgettable narrative of heroism and justice.

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About the Author:

Roya Hakakian is a former associate producer at CBS's 60 Minutes and a recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction. She's the author of two books of poetry in Persian and the acclaimed memoir Journey from the Land of No. Her opinions and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She lives in Connecticut.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

After nearly an hour prowling Prager Street, surveying the restaurant in its cul-de-sac, two hulking, bearded figures rolled their collars up to their eyes and burst inside. A third man stood guard at the entrance. It was 10:47 PM.
They darted through the main dining hall, past a lonely customer nursing a last drink. Through an archway, they entered the back room, where a party of eight sat around a rectangular table. The taller of the two intruders stationed himself behind one of the diners, facing the eldest among them --a bald, bespectacled man in a gray suit who was addressing everyone. No one was yet aware of their arrival. The speaker, suddenly meeting the intruder’s dark gaze upon himself, turned pale and froze in mid-speech. Another guest asked what was wrong with him. The answer came from the intruder:
You sons of whores!”

He thrust his gloved hand into the sports bag that hung on his shoulder. Then, a click! .

A voice from the table shouted: Comrades, it’s an assassi !”
The trail of his call faded in the roaring sound that followed. In the dimly-lit air, sparks of fire flashed at the intruder’s hip. Bullets, piercing the side of the bag, bombarded the guests. The shell casings rang on the floor --the men, collapsing, their chairs, falling, the wall behind them, cracking with each bullet. Blood sprayed what remained of a dinner of meat and rice, tracing the empty china like remnants of some crimson garnish, dotting the uneaten bread in their straw baskets, beading the petals of the plastic flowers in their stubby vases. One of the wounded men clutched the tablecloth as he fell, dragging it with him spilling the bottles. The print of his bleeding hand stained one end of the white fabric. Beer and water streaked the cloth and dampened the neon-blue layer beneath.

After two barrages --twenty six bullets-- the shooter paused to inspect the scene. The air was thick with the smell of gunpowder. Of the eight guests, everyone had stooped or fallen, except one. The elder guest was still in his chair, neck slumped on his shoulder, blood tinting his white shirt, blending with the busy pattern of his tie. Another victim was doubled over, breathing noisily, gasping for air, his face was smashed into a mug of beer. The golden liquid was slowly darkening.

The second shooter walked up to the table, tucked his bare hand under his belt, and drew out a gun. No one stirred. He aimed at the elder man, and fired three more bullets into his head. Then he turned to one of the bodies on the floor, a young, mustached man dressed in what, until moments before, had been a crisp white shirt. Pointing his gun at the back of the man’s head, he fired a single shot. Then he turned to the next body and aimed once more. But before he pulled the trigger, his accomplice motioned him to leave.

They bolted out of the restaurant. Their guard joined them at the door. At the intersection across the cul-de-sac, a sky-blue BMW was idling. They ran toward the car. The lead shooter reached it first. He grabbed the handles and swung both front and back passenger doors open. As he jammed himself beside the driver, he threw the bag behind him. The other two shoved themselves in the backseat, where a fourth man sat. A fifth man, their driver, stomped on the accelerator, nearly running over a pedestrian as he took off. Across the intersection, the engine of a black Mercedes roared, and it, too, took off and swerved onto a side street.

The breeze blew gently. A light drizzle fell softly. Suddenly, everything was as it had been on so many nights before. But lights had come on in the few windows overlooking the restaurant. A handful of neighbors had awakened. On the fourth floor balcony of the building next to the restaurant, a young woman clutched the railing, leaning downward. Her auburn hair flowed over the white uniform, her skin still warm from the bike ride home. She peered intently at the sidewalk below, looking for the source of the blast that had shaken the floor of her living room. She was a curious bystander then, soon a witness, one of several hundred, to detail her account of the tremor beneath her feet, the tremor that would ripple through and shake Germany, and all of Europe in the months to come.

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