NewsSpecial WirePanel in U.S. capital condemns Iran meddling in Iraq

Panel in U.S. capital condemns Iran meddling in Iraq

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Iran Focus: Washington, DC, Oct. 14 – A panel of Middle East legal and political experts condemned Iranian meddling in Iraq’s upcoming constitution during a conference in the United States capital on Thursday. Iran Focus

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Washington, DC, Oct. 14 – A panel of Middle East legal and political experts condemned Iranian meddling in Iraq’s upcoming constitution during a conference in the United States capital on Thursday.

The event, hosted by the Global Coalition Against Fundamentalism, focused on Iran’s interference in Iraq and the implications of its meddling in the forthcoming Iraqi constitutional referendum on the main Iranian opposition group, Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK, or PMOI), based in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.

Among the speakers was Dr. Abdulla Rasheed Aljubori, until recently the elected governor of the eastern province of Diyala, where Camp Ashraf is based.

The Iraqi people “don’t want to live under occupation, but they also don’t want to live in a so-called Islamic Republic under the domination of Iran”, Aljubori said, as he gave details of Iranian meddling in Iraq and in the drafting of the upcoming Iraqi constitution which is expected to be approved on Saturday.

“The Iranian regime has used its proxies in Iraq to meddle even in the writing of the new constitution. As a result, the draft constitution contains a clause that is against international law on political asylum. This is important for us, Iraqis, because we believe that the Iranian opposition PMOI and its allies in the coalition National Council or Resistance of Iran are the best friends of the Iraqis who demand freedom and sovereignty. Last April, 2.8 million Iraqis signed the biggest petition in the history of Iraq and called on the Iraqi government to reaffirm the PMOI’s status as a legitimate resistance movement and the political asylum of its individuals”.

“The Iranian opposition NCRI and PMOI are our allies in this huge struggle for democracy and peace in the Middle East”, Aljubori said, adding that Iran’s meddling in Iraq had given rise to Islamic fundamentalism in the mostly Shiite Muslim country.

Professor Steven Schneebaum, of the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP and an adjunct professor of law at Johns Hopkins and Cornell universities, addressing the conference, focused on the language of Article 21C of the draft Iraqi constitution. “This section, which concerns the granting of asylum, currently provides that no one may receive political asylum in Iraq if he or she, among other things, has been ‘accused’ of committing international or terror crimes. We would have no quarrel with the blanket denial of asylum eligibility to persons who have been tried and convicted as terrorists. … But neither the Geneva Conventions nor the various international covenants governing the treatment of refugees permit the determination of someone’s status on the basis of what he or she may be accused of having done”.

“Given that accusation is essentially a discretionary act assigned to the executive branch, with the determination of actual guilt always consigned to the independent judiciary, the current language would in essence give the executive an absolute discretion to grant or to withhold asylum, with no accountability to the refugee himself or herself, or to any tribunal”, Schneebaum said, adding, “We all know the residents of Camp Ashraf, who are the member of Iran’s main opposition group, have been accused by Tehran’s regime as terrorists”.

Reza Bulorchi of U.S. Alliance for Democratic Iran said, “Iran’s multi-faceted and multi-pronged campaign of destabilisation in Iraq represents an enormous threat to the future of a stable, peaceful and democratic nation”.

“Tehran’s campaign in Iraq is not just some small scale operation in reaction to the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Businesses, front companies, religious groups, NGOs and aid for schools and universities are all part of the mix”, Bulorchi added.

The conference coincided with an announcement this week, in a statement signed by 1 million Iraqis, condemning Tehran’s meddling in Iraq and calling for change in Article 21 C of the draft constitution.

Separately, on Wednesday, the Washington Times published an appeal to U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Iraqi leaders, and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan by more than 150 Parliamentarians from 20 European countries calling for an urgent modification of Article 21C of the draft Iraqi constitution.

On Thursday, Iraq announced that it had reached an agreement among various political parties to go ahead with the constitution vote so long as a second vote could be held on an amended draft in four months.

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