AP: A court ruling in Britain could force the European Union to remove a prominent Iranian opposition movement from its list of terrorist organizations despite concern over Tehran's reaction, a senior opposition figure said Tuesday.
The Associated Press
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – A court ruling in Britain could force the European Union to remove a prominent Iranian opposition movement from its list of terrorist organizations despite concern over Tehran's reaction, a senior opposition figure said Tuesday.
Maryam Rajavi said she expects the EU to strike the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran off the terrorist black list within weeks of a verdict this month by the Court of Appeal in London. The court backed the group's claim to have renounced violence.
"We expect the EU to immediately remove the PMOI from the list," Rajavi told The Associated Press. "The EU decision was based on U.K.'s decision, which has been declared unlawful, therefore the EU must comply."
EU diplomats are worried that such a move would provoke a furious reaction from the government in Tehran and derail efforts to restart international talks to bring Iran's nuclear program into line.
The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, announced Monday that he hopes to travel to Iran soon to discuss international concerns about the country's nuclear program.
He is expected to discuss a repackaged set of incentives from major world powers intended to persuade Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program — a technology that could give Iran a pathway to developing nuclear weapons.
Diplomats in Brussels fear Iran would halt talks if the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran is removed from the list. But the EU may be forced to act, as the group has a separate appeal pending at the European high court.
Tehran has denounced the British court verdict as "politically motivated and unacceptable." State radio reported that the government demanded Britain block the implementation of the verdict for the sake of relations between the two countries.
Rajavi said that she expected that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith could make an announcement as early as Wednesday that the government is complying with May 7 court ruling. If so, Rajavi expects the 27-nation European Union to follow suit in the midyear review of its blacklist next month.
Once removed from the list, the organization will be able to raise funds and campaign openly in the European Union.
"It would sent a (strong) message to the Iranian people that Europe is no longer supporting the mullahs' regime," Rajavi said. "It will encourage the Iranian people to protest."
She said delaying the decision to prevent an Iranian backlash would be counterproductive.
"I think it's a great error by the Europeans if they accept that pressure," Rajavi said. "The policy of appeasement, the policy of negotiation has failed … five years of negotiations has just given the mullahs' regime time to obtain the atomic bomb."
Based in Paris, Rajavi traveled to Brussels to press the organization's case with members of the European Parliament. She heads the National Council of Resistance — an umbrella organization for Iranian opposition groups that includes the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran.
The group has spent years arguing it is a legitimate, nonviolent group seeking to introduce democracy to Iran and should not be alongside organizations such as al-Qaida or Hezbollah on the EU's terrorist list. It says the 2002 decision to place it on the list was based on British evidence, now overturned by the court ruling.
Rajavi said she expected any European Union decision to remove the group would be followed by the United States, which also classes the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran as a terrorist organization.
"After the verdict of the London appeal court, the US list is also without any foundation," she said.
The People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which is also known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, or MEK, was formed in opposition to the U.S.-backed dictatorship of the late Iranian ruler Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
It has been on U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations since 1997, which bars anyone in the United States from providing material support. The State Department says Mujahedeen Khalq groups were funded by Saddam Hussein, supported the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and were responsible for the deaths of Americans in the 1970s.
The group says it officially renounced violence in 2001 and says it is working to bring democracy to Iran. "The PMOI is a resistance against a religious dictatorship," Rajavi said. "I'm sure one day the Western countries will present their apologies to the Iranian people … for this error."