The Case of Soghomon Tehlirian

The Case of Soghomon Tehlirian (Armenian Political Trials: Proceedings 1)
Translated from German by Vartkes Yeghiayan

Grade Level: Eleventh Grade to Adult
Soghomon Tehlirian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, assassinated Talaat Pasha, the primary architect of the Armenian Genocide, in Berlin in 1921. Although there was no doubt Tehlirian committed the murder, the jury found him not guilty, after hearing 2 days of gripping testimony about the genocide planned and executed by Talaat Pasha. The trial helped motivate Raphael Lemkin to coin the word “Genocide.”

GenEd’s 2-day mock trial includes a condensed version of several key trial witness testimonies and concluding arguments.Talaat Pasha, Minister of the Interior and mastermind of the Genocide, had fled Turkey to seek refuge in Germany where he continued to labor for Pan-Turkism.  He had been tried in absentia by the Turkish authorities and sentenced to death for the atrocities he planned and carried out, but no official effort had been made to apprehend him and bring him to justice.

After Talaat’s assassination, Soghomon Tehlirian, who admitted to committing the murder, was given a jury trial.  During the two-day trial, expert witnesses and eye-witnesses testified not only about the murder itself but about the details of the Armenian Genocide and Tehlirian’s physical and mental condition as the only survivor in his family. The jury acquitted Tehlirian. He eventually moved to the United States and lived out his years in San Francisco.  Years later it was learned that the assassination of Talaat Pasha was part of a covert plan code-named “Operation Nemesis” to assassinate the leading Turkish perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.

The Case of Soghomon Tehlirian (Tehlirian Trial Transcript, English Translation)

Mock Trial Activity: The Genocide Education Project offers a two-day mock trial activity presenting this important case. Students conduct an abbreviated version of the actual 1921 murder trial of the young Armenian Genocide survivor who assassinated Talaat Pasha. (Click DOWNLOAD BUTTON below)