Reuters: Leaders of a group of Iranian exiles in Iraq, who are resisting attempts to make them leave the country, traded accusations with the Iraqi government on Thursday after relatives were prevented from visiting them.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Leaders of a group of Iranian exiles in Iraq, who are resisting attempts to make them leave the country, traded accusations with the Iraqi government on Thursday after relatives were prevented from visiting them.
Leaders of the Iranian opposition group, which has been based at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad for around two decades, said Iraqi security forces had stopped relatives from entering the camp to see family members.
"Iraqi forces stationed at the gates of Camp Ashraf on February 3 and during the past two days on February 9 and 10 prevented the entry of 15 relatives who were trying to see their loved ones in Ashraf," the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) said.
"(The Iraqi government) should not allow this inhumane treatment, which is desired by the Iranian regime, to take place in the name of the Iraqi government," the group added, calling the actions of Iraqi security forces a breach of human rights.
Iraqi officials, who took over security at the camp from U.S. forces this year, laid the blame on the PMOI.
"The Iraqi government received the families and facilitated their arrival and they were taken to the reception halls but the leaders at the camp refused to let the relatives see their families," National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said.
"(They) insisted that they should attend the meeting, without giving these families the freedom to privately see their relatives," Rubaie added, also calling in his statement for international condemnation.
The statements from the opposite sides were impossible to reconcile.
The fate of Camp Ashraf's 3,500 residents has been in the air since Iraq took it over from U.S. forces this year.
Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim leaders are friendly with Tehran, and want it closed, but they say it will not be shut down by force.
Human rights groups say closing Ashraf and driving residents out against their will would violate international human rights law. They see it as a test of whether Iraq can meet its legal obligations as a member of the international community.
The government views the PMOI as terrorists, as do the United States and Iran. But the group won an important victory last month when the European Union agreed to take it off its list of terrorist organizations.
The PMOI began as a group of Islamist leftists opposed to Iran's late Shah but fell out with Shi'ite clerics who took power after the 1979 revolution. Many fought alongside Saddam Hussein against Iran.
The group surrendered tanks and weapons arsenals to U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq but its presence remains a source of friction between Baghdad, Washington and Tehran.
(Reporting by Michael Christie; Editing by Sophie Hares)