Magazine Summer 2008 The Crime and the Acquittal

20 May 2008, 17:11
1892 |

The Crime and the Acquittal

Seeing the ghost of his father entirely changed the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet’s perception of life, forcing him to ponder the question which would later be called eternal: “To be or not to be?” The ghost of his mother that visited Soghomon Tehlirian, the genocide survivor, imposed the same disquieting question. Both heroes made the same choice – to be! To become a “ sword of punishment” against immorality and inhuman cruelty. In the eyes of the law, Hamlet and Soghomon both committed crimes, while in matter of fact – they punished criminals. This thin line between the form of an action and its essence is illuminated in Tehlirian’s words: “I have killed a man, but I am not a murderer.” On June 2 and 3, 1921, the court of jurors of Berlin’s regional court – heard testimony in the murder case of Talaat Pasha, Turkey’s former Minister of Internal Affairs and one of the organizers of the Armenian Genocide; an act committed by Tehlirian. The court’s verdict of acquittal demonstrated the victory of human spirit over the letter of law. This was evident from the defense and prosecuting attorney’s closing arguments, recorded in the trial transcripts.

District attorney gollnick
To turn to the homicide; as I indicated, the motive of the defendant was to obtain revenge by killing Talaat, who, he was convinced, was the instigator and perpetrator of the massacres of the Armenians.
Gentlemen, this motive of revenge is not an ignoble one by any means; on the contrary, it is an easy one to comprehend as long as human beings are able to love and hate.
Later on, when I ask whether the defendant acted with premeditation, it will be easy to see how motives of revenge drove his premeditated killing. When you consider carefully how the defendant, after seeing his parents house in Erzinga in ruins, scoured Europe until he came to Berlin and found Talaat, it will not be difficult to conclude that he was possessed by a fanatical, vengeful notion that drew him like a magnet to the home and doorway of the victim.
Thus, in my opinion, the statement he made when first interrogated is absolutely truthful. I have no doubt whatsoever that it corresponds with the truth. At the time of his interrogation, the defendant said, «As soon as I saw my parents home in ruins, I wanted to avenge their deaths. In order to do that, I went and bought a pistol...»
Gentlemen, I do not want to dwell on this point any further. There may be doubts about this. In point of fact, the defendant himself retracted his statements to that effect, saying they had been made when he was weak of mind and under the immediate influence of shock caused by killing. But I would like to emphasize a statement which the defendant made to the police inspector and repeated in this courtroom. According to his statement, the first time he thought of killing Talaat was fourteen days before the actual killing.
Therefore, we can see how the defendant followed through his intention to the end, with a clear plan and after weighing all factors. We see that he left his previous lodging; how he justified his departure on grounds of poor health; how he followed Talaat and found out what time Talaat normally left his house; how, on March 15th, he put his pistol in his pocket, followed Talaat and then passed in front of him to make sure it was Talaat Pasha; how he let the victim pass him so he would be behind him again and how he fired upon him from behind. His aim was true: death was instantaneous.
For further proof that this was a premeditated crime, let us look to another statement he made to the police. In answer to the question «Why did you not fire when you were facing him?», he said, «I might not have succeeded. He would have tried to defend himself; he might have moved and I could not be sure that my shot would kill.»
Gentlemen of the jury, we also see from the evidence that this crime was committed intentionally and very calmly. You may recall how he threw his pistol away and tried to escape. When he was caught and beaten, he said, «The person I killed is not German. I am not German. You Germans have no reason to be saddened on account of this incident. It does not concern you at all.»
Taking all these circumstances into consideration, we can only conclude that the killing was carried out in a perfectly cold-blooded manner; it was well thought-out and deliberated upon in advance.
In conclusion, I propose that you give an affirmative answer to the questions put to you by this court, and find the defendant guilty of having killed Talaat Pasha with premeditation.

Read the full version in PDF format