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Attorneys, witnesses, and relatives of Iraq-based Iranian dissidents rip HRW report

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Iran Focus: Washington, DC, May 27 – In a press briefing yesterday at the National Press Club in the U.S. capital, attorneys for the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI), based in Camp Ashraf northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, their relatives in the United States, and former residents of the camp
addressed allegations by New York-based Human Rights Watch against the group. Iran Focus

Washington, DC, May 27 – In a press briefing yesterday at the National Press Club in the U.S. capital, attorneys for the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI), based in Camp Ashraf northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, their relatives in the United States, and former residents of the camp addressed allegations by New York-based Human Rights Watch against the group.

U.S. attorneys Steven Schneebaum and Ronald Precup rejected the HRW report on the PMOI (also known by its Persian name Mujahedin-e-Khalq, MEK), calling it “procedurally flawed and substantively incorrect”.

Schneebaum, who visited Camp Ashraf in January 2004, referred to the camp as “Ashraf City”, as it was no longer a military encampment. He said that “Human Rights Watch has made a mistake in this case”. Among the reasons that he cited was that Ashraf residents, having been thoroughly investigated by U.S. government agencies, had been recognized as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This determination alone, he argued, undermined the entire basis of the HRW allegations.

Precup, US counsel for the PMOI, said, “Flawed procedures have produced false facts against the PMOI. Twelve hours of telephone interviews with 12 individuals are simply insufficient to produce a properly substantiated report. Mohammad-Hossein Sobhani, a key ‘witness’ in the HRW report, was a team-leader and veteran agent of Iranian intelligence. In fact, most of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch were sent from Iran to Europe for the purpose of demonizing the PMOI”.

Hossein Madani, a senior political official in Ashraf City, joined the press briefing via telephone from Iraq. He said, “Human Rights Watch did not bother to contact us to verify the information provided by the 12 individuals, who are in fact agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. We reject the content of this report and believe it is politically motivated. It will serve Tehran’s agenda against advocates of democracy and human rights in Iran”.

Several U.S.-based relatives of Ashraf residents called upon Human Rights Watch to seek the truth and “not to serve Tehran’s political campaign against its opposition”, according to a press release. A number of former residents of Ashraf participated in the press briefing as witnesses and presented a letter signed by nearly 400 former residents calling on Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of HRW, to retract the report.

Schneebaum said that he was troubled that at a time when thousands of lawmakers from across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East have called for the removal of the terror tag from the PMOI, “HRW appears to have aligned itself with those who have concluded that the organization is ‘terrorist’, although United States authorities that have investigated the matter exhaustively have come to the opposite conclusion”.

Participants criticised Human Rights Watch for ignoring repeated invitations by the PMOI to visit Camp Ashraf to inspect first-hand the state of the personnel who are based there.

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