March 15, 2014 - 17:14 AMT
Soghomon Tehlirian assassinated Talaat Pasha on March 15, 1921
Operation Nemesis was a covert operation by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation carried out from 1920 to 1922, during which a number of former Ottoman political and military figures were assassinated for their role in the Armenian Genocide.
Ottoman Armenian Soghomon Tehlirian assassinated the former Grand Vizir Talaat Pasha in Berlin in the presence of many witnesses on March 15, 1921 as an act of vengeance for his role in orchestrating the Armenian Genocide. The move was a part of the Dashnak Party's Operation Nemesis.

Tehlirian was tried for murder, but was eventually acquitted by the German court. The trial of Tehlirian was a rather sensationalized event at the time, with Tehlirian being defended by three attorneys, including Dr. Theodor Niemeyer, professor of Law at Kiel University.

The trial examined not only Tehlirian’s actions but also Tehlirian's conviction that Talaat Pasha was the main author of the Armenian Genocide. The defense attorneys made no attempt to deny the fact that Tehlirian had killed a man, and instead focused on the influence of the Armenian Genocide on Tehlirian's mental state. When asked by the judge if he felt any sort of guilt, Tehlirian remarked, "I do not consider myself guilty because my conscience is clear … I have killed a man. But I am not a murderer."

It took the jury slightly over an hour to render a verdict of "not guilty". The "not guilty" verdict of the jury was based on the account of Tehlirian's experience during the Genocide.

After the trial, Tehlirian moved to the former Yugoslavia where he lived for nearly thirty years. After the end of World War Two he and his family fled to Casablanca. In 1956 Tehlirian moved to the United States. He died in 1960 in San Francisco.

The Armenian Genocide and the 1921 trial of Soghomon Tehlirian set precedents for the 20th century. “For the first time in legal history,” a German-born American lawyer Robert Kempner wrote in 1980 in retrospect, the Berlin court recognized the principle (if not de jure , then at least through the trial’s overall course and impact on the outside world) “that gross violations of human rights, and especially genocide that is committed by a government can be contested by foreign states, and that [such foreign intervention] does not constitute impermissible meddling in the internal affairs of another state.”

Photo: Tehlirians' Family Archive