Iran General NewsBritish ban on 'terrorist' group reversed

British ban on ‘terrorist’ group reversed

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Los Angeles Times: In a victory for British politicians pushing to promote regime change in Iran, an appeals tribunal ruled today that their government had no authority to ban Iran’s best-organized opposition group as a terrorist organization. Los Angeles Times

Tribunal says the government has no authority to prohibit the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, which wants to overthrow the Tehran regime. London’s Home Office criticizes the action.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

LONDON — In a victory for British politicians pushing to promote regime change in Iran, an appeals tribunal ruled today that their government had no authority to ban Iran’s best-organized opposition group as a terrorist organization.

The ruling, which could help the group gain legal status across Europe, was hailed as a significant boost to efforts to organize democratic opposition to the Islamic government in Tehran.

But by legitimizing an organization with a history of deadly attacks in Iran, the panel’s decision could also undermine Iran’s willingness to cooperate in international anti-terrorism fronts and inject a new stumbling block into negotiations over the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program, British officials have warned.

The successful appeal was filed by three dozen members of British Parliament, many of whom say they hope to empower Iranian opposition groups to peacefully overthrow the government in Tehran.

“This judgment will help Iran build a new country,” said the chairman of the parliamentary committee that filed the appeal, Robin Corbett. “It signals an end to attempts by our government and others in the EU to persuade the mullahs to abandon their bid for nuclear weapons and their role in killing British and other troops in Iraq.”

“Iran will be free,” he added. “This decision brings that day nearer.”

The British government said it would likely appeal the panel’s ruling.

The case involves the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, often known as the Mujahedin Khalq, which over the years has carried out a series of bombings, assassinations and cross-border attacks aimed at unseating Iran’s Islamic government. The group claims it has abandoned violence and is working to promote democratic transition, but says it cannot effectively carry out its political activities when it is banned as a terrorist organization.

The group is outlawed throughout the European Union and the U.S., but its lawyers said they hope to use today’s ruling to win reconsideration internationally and step up their efforts to topple the government in Tehran.

“The fundamental solution to Iran’s crisis is neither foreign military intervention nor appeasement. The solution is democratic change by the Iranian people, and resistance. For this solution to work, all obstacles placed in the path of the resistance must be removed,” said Maryam Rajavi, the president elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella political opposition group which includes the People’s Mujahedin.

Rajavi spoke to cheering supporters in London by video link from the group’s headquarters in Paris. Dozens of Iranians filled the street outside the courthouse after the decision was announced, some weeping, many waving the organization’s flags, while organizers handed out sweets.

“Thank you!” the crowd chanted repeatedly, and then: “The Mujahedin are the lions of Iran!”

The British government, in announcing its plans to appeal the decision, warned in evidence presented to Britain’s Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission that delisting the group could present foreign policy problems for Britain.

“The government adopted a cautious approach in relation to the de-proscription of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran,” Home Office minister Tony McNulty said in a statement.

“I remain convinced that where terrorism is concerned, the rights of the law-abiding majority and the overriding need to protect the public, both in the U.K. and abroad, must lead us to take such a cautious approach,” he said.

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, noted that U.S. officials also regard the group as a terrorist organization, and said he has been assured that the British government will attempt to retain its prohibition.

“Some of you have seen for yourselves the terrorist activities of this group inside Iran. They have assassinated, they have killed and injured innocent Iranian citizens. This will not at all be a good precedent for Britain,” he said during a visit to London to negotiate Iran’s nuclear dossier with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

“I am very much hoping that British officials will make sure and take every effort so that this is not recorded in British history, that such support was given to a terror organization,” he said.

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