Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace

by Roya Hakakian

“[Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is a painstaking and riveting account—a true story that reads like an international thriller.” —The Daily Beast, “Ten Books That You Might Have Missed But Shouldn’t”

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date September 11, 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4597-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

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.

Who had pulled the trigger? The morning papers implicated the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. The chief federal prosecutor suspected a rival opposition group. But neither the press nor the country’s top lawman knew then that these men were not the only ones who had been killed. Since the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, over one hundred Iranian exiles had disappeared or been assassinated in Europe and elsewhere.

But 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 themselves against Tehran but against some of the greatest powers in Germany. An undeterred federal prosecutor and an endlessly patient chief judge took over the case and a historic verdict followed that shook both Europe and Iran, and achieved something few could have predicted—justice.

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is the first book to tell this story in all its detail, from the ghastly shooting inside Mykonos restaurant to the investigation that took place over the course of several years, and finally to the landmark trial—a case that marked the first and only time that a non-democratic regime had been put on trial for its blatant violation of international law, and which to this day remains the only instance of Western success against Iran’s ruling clerics. Roya Hakakian’s Assassins of the Turquoise Palace is an incredible book of history and reportage, and an unforgettable narrative of heroism and justice.


Assassins of the Turquoise Palace throws light on the rivalries and fears within Iran’s cast exile community. . . . carefully researched and vividly written . . . In addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, [it] can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal.” —The New York Times

“[A] riveting account of a multiple murder and trial that led to a paradigm shift in Europe’s relations with post-revolutionary Iran. . . . Hakakian . . . deploys all of her talents as a former producer at 60 Minutes and a poet in her native Farsi to tell the human and political story behind the news . . . A nonfiction political thriller of the highest order.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is a painstaking and riveting account—a true story that reads like an international thriller.” —The Daily Beast, “Ten Books That You Might Have Missed But Shouldn’t”

“Insightful and detailed . . . [The Assassins of the Turquoise Palace] is not limited to a historical account . . . It is a rumination on the Islamic Republic’s culture of terror, and as such it delves into the personal lives of the victims [and] their broken families . . . [A] captivating narrative.” —PBS

“[An] admirable . . . look at the September 17, 1992, terror killing of four Kurdish exiles who were holding a meeting in a small restaurant in Berlin. . . . [Hakakian] does a worthy job of presenting the facts through the eyes of the men who survived the shooting and the German authorities who prosecuted the case . . . the focus on Middle East politics should give this broad appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace throws light on the rivalries and fears within Iran’s cast exile community . . . carefully researched and vividly written . . . In addition to being a lively account of an extraordinary trial, [it] can be read as an unsettling reminder of the dangers of excessive zeal.” —Caroline Moorehead, New York Times Book Review

“Even as they continue to breach every known international law, all the while protesting at interventions in their ‘internal affairs,’ the theocrats in Tehran stand convicted of mounting murderous interventions in the affairs of others. Roya Hakakian’s beautiful book mercilessly exposes just one of these crimes, and stands as tribute to the courageous dissidents and lawyers who managed one of that rarest of human achievements: an authentic victory for truth and justice.” —Christopher Hitchens

“[A] political thriller . . . thoroughly researched, dramatically told account . . . readers will find everything they could ask for—and more—discussed in riveting detail . . . [a] fine book.” —Howard Sacks, Washington Independent Book Review

“Hakakian’s meticulously documented account of the Mykonos incident is a powerful rejoinder, as well as a lesson in ruthlessness and conscience . . . Hakakian’s narrative shines.” —Jewish Ideas Daily

“‘I feel myself as a translator,’ she said, adding that as a Jew in Iran and now as an Iranian in America, she has always hovered on the periphery. ‘My job is to tell what gets lost in the narrative about Iran—which is not the nuclear story, not the wiping-Israel-off-the-map story, not the ones that are in the headlines, but the stories that are sort of insider accounts, the stories that have deeply shaped us,’ she said. ‘There are these overlapping spaces that I do inhabit, and I stand there, trying to pass information from one sphere to the other.’” —from Roya Hakakian’s Washington Post profile

“Gripping . . .” —Jim Shelton, New Haven Register

“This is a brilliant, riveting book with all the elements of a great thriller—a horrific crime, sociopathic villains, international intrigue, personal betrayals, a noble prosecutor, and an honorable judge. And it is all too real, with remarkably comprehensive reporting and brisk, smart writing.” —Joe Klein

“As the world contemplates the pressing predicament of I ran, Roya Hakakian offers one possible solution through a riveting tale that is most timely and profoundly urgent. This superb true story is much more than an international In Cold Blood—it is a stunning parable of the central struggle of our times between totalitarianism and the rule of law.” —R. James Woolsey, CIA Director 1992-1994


A New York Times Editor’s Choice (Septemebr 2011)
A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
One of Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011


After nearly an hour prowling Prager Street, two hulking, bearded figures rolled their collars up to their eyes and burst inside. It was 10:47 p.m.

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.

Reading Group Guide

1. What is the importance of this historical account in today’s society? Why should we look back at this particular event so many years later?

2. Often it is the confluence of many people that brings about change. Is it possible to pick out one person as the protagonist, or is it more likely that there are several “heroes” working together? Name the protagonist(s) and discuss why they warrant that title.

3. Many assassinations similar to this one occurred around the same time throughout Europe and the world that went largely ignored by courts and the media. In fact, an assassination was carried out only two months before in nearby Hamburg. Why do you think this particular case warranted such a drastically different reaction?

4. Due to political pressure and the danger of retribution, the verdict of this case could have gone in a very different direction. As you read, what did you think the verdict would be? Why?

5. Though it’s not mentioned explicitly in the book, the shadow of the Holocaust is still very much present. Do you think this piece of Germany’s past informed the outcome of the trial?

6. While there are very few women involved in this account, the ones presented play interesting roles. How were they important to the story, and how could they be considered important historically?

7. In many accounts of trials, only one point of view is given. In this book, we learn some of the background of the defendants and so are forced to see them as humans, not simply as faceless assassins. After reading about them, did you feel any sort of sympathy for the assassins? Why or why not?

8. As a German citizen with no ties to Iran, what do you think was Bruno Jost’s motivation for trying a case that put himself and his family in danger? Could you have done what he did?

9. As stated earlier, this case could have easily gone the other way. What do you think would have been the ramifications of the defendants being found not guilty? Was it an eventuality that one of the assassinations perpetrated by the Iranian regime would lead to the sort of Western backlash created by this event?

10. Never since the Nuremberg Trials have a nation’s leaders been put on trial. With this knowledge, what are the historical and political implications of this case?

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