Sunday Telegraph: In a street off London’s Chancery Lane on Friday 400 Iranians celebrated a court victory that has left the British Government in a deep double embarassment. Not only were ministers found to have acted illegally in outlawing the chief Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), as a terrorist organisation; they now face searching questions from their EU colleagues as to why they have twice incited the European Council to a unique act of defiance by ignoring a ruling from the European Court of Justice. The Sunday Telegraph
By Christopher Booker
In a street off London’s Chancery Lane on Friday 400 Iranians celebrated a court victory that has left the British Government in a deep double embarassment. Not only were ministers found to have acted illegally in outlawing the chief Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), as a terrorist organisation; they now face searching questions from their EU colleagues as to why they have twice incited the European Council to a unique act of defiance by ignoring a ruling from the European Court of Justice.
At the heart of this shameful story lies one of the most baffling riddles of contemporary politics: why should our Government have repeatedly acted in breach of the law, to appease the murderous regime in Teheran, which has played a key part in arming the insurgents who are killing British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?
This murky tale goes back to 2001 when Jack Straw, as home secretary, branded the PMOI, alongside al-Qa’eda, as a terrorist organisation. As Straw himself admitted in 2006, he did this “at the behest of the Teheran regime”. The PMOI is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), backed by millions of Iranians who want to see their country transformed into a democratic, secular state, freed from the tyranny of the mullahs and the murder squads of their Revolutionary Guards, who have shot, mutilated or hanged more than 100,000 supporters of the NCRI since 1979.
In 2002, at British instigation, the EU added the PMOI to its own list of terrorist groups, a decision that last December was finally ruled “unlawful” by the ECJ. Unprecedentedly, in January, again at British instigation, the Council of the European Union agreed to defy the ruling of its own court, a decision it confirmed last June – even though by then the Foreign Office admitted the Revolutionary Guards were actively aiding the insurgents fighting British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In August, 35 MPs and peers, led by former ministers, including Lord Waddington, a former home secretary, asked the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Committee, a branch of the High Court, to rule that the proscription of the PMOI was unlawful. Their lawyers produced a mass of evidence to show that the PMOI was not a terrorist organisation. The Home Office could produce no evidence to show that it was anything other than a non-violent movement campaigning for democracy.
On Friday all three judges ruled in the PMOI’s favour, finding that the Home Office had ignored important facts, misunderstood the law and reached a “perverse” decision. It told the Home Secretary to lay an order before Parliament removing the PMOI from its list. Home Officer minister Tom McNulty weakly responded that the Government would seek leave to appeal.
The ruling deepens Britain’s embarrassment in Europe, where it has twice successfully incited the EU to defy the verdict of its own court. In June, when Britain persuaded the Council to uphold its earlier decision, this was against the wishes of more than 1,000 politicians of all parties across the EU, including 234 MEPs and the Italian and Danish parliaments.
The fact that our Government has been shown to have acted illegally all along, to appease a regime which glories in hanging its political opponents in public, should persuade the rest of the EU finally to recognise how grotesquely it has been misled by British ministers, and to reverse its shameful action in line with the robust ruling of a British court. A good day for British justice, but one that leaves Mr Straw and his colleagues with some very uncomfortable questions to answer.