Iran General NewsVictory for Iran's dissidents in a British court

Victory for Iran’s dissidents in a British court

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ImageSunday Telegraph: Last Wednesday three of Britain's most senior judges, led by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, dealt the Government a blow so humiliating that it should have made headlines across the land.

The Sunday Telegraph

By Christopher Booker

ImageLast Wednesday three of Britain's most senior judges, led by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, dealt the Government a blow so humiliating that it should have made headlines across the land.

They gave a final rebuff to the Government's bizarre efforts, over seven years, to appease the murderous regime of the mullahs in Teheran by outlawing their main democratic opponents as terrorists.

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Phillips ruled that the Government had no grounds to appeal against a High Court order, made last November, that it should lay an instrument before Parliament removing the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) from its list of terrorist organisations. To include the PMOI on this list, the courts ruled, had been "perverse" and "unlawful".

Everything about this story has been inexplicable. Back in 2001, Jack Straw, then home secretary, added the PMOI to its terrorist list, as he later admitted "at the request of the Teheran government".

The PMOI is the largest component of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), a mass movement which enjoys huge support in that oppressed country, holding out the hope of a secular and democratic alternative to the ruthless theocracy which has murdered more than 100,000 of the NCRI's supporters since 1979.

In 2002, at the UK's request, the EU added the PMOI to its own list of terrorist organisations. In 2006 the European Court of Justice ruled that this was "unlawful"' since the PMOI now sought to achieve regime-change in Iran only by peaceful methods. (It was the PMOI which first alerted the world in 2002 to Teheran's plans to build nuclear weapons.)

In 2007, again at UK insistence, the Council of the European Union twice voted to defy the ruling of its own court.

Last summer 35 MPs and peers of all parties – including Lords Alton and Corbett; Lord Waddington, a former home secretary; Lord Slynn of Hadley, a former Law Lord; and Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Solicitor-General – asked the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission, part of the High Court, to rule the UK ban on the PMOI as "unlawful".

In November, after a 10-day hearing, the commission agreed, comprehensively rejecting the Government's case and ordering the ban to be lifted.

By this time even the Government was conceding that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were playing a key part in assisting terrorist movements all over the Middle East, from Gaza and Beirut to Iraq and Afghanistan, and were the source of 90 per cent of the terrorist bombs used to kill British troops around Basra and in Helmand.

But our Government, astonishingly, still sought to defy the rulings of the European and British courts. Its last hope was the Court of Appeal.

The fact that the Lord Chief Justice should have chosen to hear the case himself, along with Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Arden, showed the judiciary's sensitivity to the huge political importance of this case – and last week they delivered a devastating judgment.

In London and Paris, there was unconfined joy among thousands of Iranian exiles. I spoke to Mrs Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, in Paris, and she emphasised how important it was that Britain and the West should stop "appeasing the mullahs and adopt a firm policy towards the Teheran regime before it is too late".

Not only must the judgments of the courts in London and Luxembourg now be obeyed without delay, but it is time for Western governments to "negotiate with the Iranian resistance, as the one hope of bringing an end to this religious dictatorship which poses a major threat to regional and global peace".

Still our Government seems not to have got the message. The Home Office last week told me that, although it will obey the courts by laying the required order before Parliament, it will still have to be "debated and approved by both Houses, which is likely to take about six weeks. Its passage is entirely out of ministers' hands".

Meanwhile they also have the embarrassment of explaining to their friends in Teheran that a measure adopted by the EU at UK insistence has now been comprehensively ruled illegal and will have to be abandoned.

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