By William Drozdiak April 19 1997 The Washington Post
BERLIN, April 18 -- The leader of an extremist Shiite fundamentalist group in Iran threatened Germany today with suicide bombings if it did not apologize for a court ruling that blamed Iran's leadership for ordering the assassination of Kurdish dissidents here in 1992.
It was the first explicit warning of violent retribution against Germany following last week's verdict by a Berlin court, which convicted an Iranian grocer and three Lebanese accomplices of gunning down the Kurds at a local restaurant. The court said the gunmen were acting on instructions from Iran's highest authorities.
Germany has stepped up its anti-terror vigilance at international airports and around government buildings in the past few days, officials said. Italy also has moved to a high alert after its intelligence agency warned of possible attacks by Islamic extremists.
"We will confront insults to Islam and our religious leadership wherever in the world they occur. We are even ready to strap a bomb around our waists and go for martyrdom," Hossein Allah-Karam, head of the Ansar'e Hezbollah group, told a crowd of demonstrators who gathered outside the German Embassy in Tehran, the Associated Press reported.
"Woe to you if you do not apologize for your actions." As he spoke, dozens of people signed up on the spot to become suicide bombers, according to the AP report from Tehran. Allah-Karam said hundreds of others had already volunteered for suicide attacks against Germany.
"Right now our government won't allow such actions, but we are negotiating with it. Once our deadline passes, then Germany will be confronted with the explosion of the Hezbollah," Allah-Karam told the crowd, without specifying when the deadline would expire.
Hundreds of police in riot gear were arrayed in four human walls to shield the embassy, as protesters shouted for "Revenge, Revenge!" against Germany. Disabled war veterans also joined the demonstration after the government said it would press charges against 24 German firms accused of supplying Iraq with chemical weapons used against Iranian soldiers during the 1980-88 war.
Germany has said it did not authorize the export of goods that could be used directly for production of chemical weapons.
Allah-Karam's group is not believed to be linked with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon that carried out kidnappings of Westerners there. It is mainly a pressure group representing poor people who seek to prevent Iran's ruling Shiite clergy from straying from the hard-line values of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah.
Until now, the Iranian government has expressed outrage but reacted with caution to the German court ruling. Germany is Iran's leading trading partner and has long acted as a special intermediary during times of tension with other Western countries. After withdrawing their ambassadors in tit-for-tat protests, both Iran and Germany declared they did not wish to see the dispute escalate to the point of open hostility.
But with Iran heading into the final stage of campaigning for its presidential election next month, radical groups that want to purge moderate voices from government have exploited the anti-Western fervor in the wake of the German verdict.
After keeping a low profile immediately after the verdict, leading Iranian politicians reacted angrily when the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament, approved a resolution this week condemning Iran for "a flagrant breach of international law" in ordering the Kurdish killings.
And tensions between Bonn and Tehran could worsen if German prosecutors decide to prolong their investigations into the role played by Iranian leaders in orchestrating the work of Iranian hit squads in Europe.
Ali Khamenei, Iran's paramount religious leader who, along with President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was accused of signing the orders to assassinate the Kurds, warned then that Germany "will soon have to pay a very high price" for the court's decision. But he did not spell out what kind of vengeance he envisioned.