Iran Focus: Villepinte, France, Jun. 28 – Tens of thousands of Iranians converged on a Paris exhibition centre on Saturday in support of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), demanding that the European Union lift its ban on the group.
Villepinte, France, Jun. 28 – Tens of thousands of Iranians converged on a Paris exhibition centre on Saturday in support of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), demanding that the European Union lift its ban on the group.
Organisers estimated participants at the indoor arena in Villepinte, north of Paris, to number over 70,000, making it the largest-ever gathering of Iranians outside Iran.
"The unjust terror label against the PMOI brought with it much calamity for us, our nation, the people of Iraq and the Middle East. Not the least of which were pictured by the cranes, from which Iranians were hanged in Iranian cities, and the onslaught of terrorism and bloodshed in Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan", said Maryam Rajavi, who heads the coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) which includes the PMOI. Rajavi's speech was repeatedly interrupted by jubilant cheers from the buoyant crowd. At one point she was showered with confetti by impassioned supporters.
The vibrant atmosphere was partly due to a major victory the PMOI had in London earlier this week, when the United Kingdom government removed it from its list of proscribed groups. The UK took the action following a decision in May by the country's Lord Chief Justice at the Court of Appeal describing the ban on the group as "perverse". British lawmakers voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the order to lift the ban on the group.
More than 100 Parliamentarians from across Europe, the Americas and the Middle East, as well as a delegation of Iraq Parliamentarians took part in the rally.
Rajavi urged the EU to stop "appeasing" the "mullahs' regime". The 27-nation bloc has an obligation to lift the ban on the PMOI when it conducts its semi-annual review of its terrorist list next week, she said.
The PMOI was banned in the UK by then-Home Secretary Jack Straw MP in 2001. The British ban was used as the basis of the group's inclusion in the European Union's terrorist list in mid-2002, in what the EU's then-Spanish leadership called "a goodwill gesture to Tehran".
In December 2006, the Court of First Instance annulled the EU's decision to place the group in the list and described the freeze on its financial assets as "unlawful". In a controversial move, however, the EU announced in June 2007 that it would maintain the group in the blacklist. It is expected to conduct its latest review of the group's status next week.
"Since the EU-wide ban on the PMOI was based exclusively on the fact that the UK had banned the group, the EU no longer has an excuse for keeping the ban in force. … It must lift the ban on the PMOI immediately", said Hossein Abedini, an NCRI spokesperson.
"Justice, justice, rule of law; EU, EU, shame on you", chanted the noisy protestors.
During her speech, Rajavi touched on the NCRI's plan for a future Iran. "The future Iran we are fighting for will be a society in which all Iranian citizens enjoy freedom of speech, belief, religion, clothing, and free access to information. Everyone will be equal before the law", she said.