November 23, 2017

Iran Resistance Is Not Terrorist Group, Court Finds

By JOHN F. BURNS
Published: May 8, 2008

LONDON — After a seven-year legal battle, Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that the British government was wrong to include an Iranian resistance group, the People’s Mujahedeen, on its list of banned terrorist groups.

Spokesmen for the group, which means People’s Holy Warriors, said the ruling appeared to leave Britain’s interior minister, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, with no further legal recourse but to lay an order before parliament striking the group from a list of more than 20 proscribed terror organizations under Britain’s Terrorism Act. The appeal court’s ruling denied the government’s bid to carry the appeal further, seemingly closing off recourse to Britain’s supreme appellate body, the so-called Law Lords. But there was no immediate word from the British government on what it planned to do.

In the midst of jubilant celebrations among the Iranian group’s supporters in London, Paris and Iraq, where 3,800 members of the Mujahedeen have lived since 2003 under American military guard at a vast desert encampment outside Baghdad, the group said it would seek to overturn a similar proscription as a terrorist group by the 27 nations of the European Union. Spokesmen for the group said that there was no further justification for the European ban, since it had been imposed in 2002 on the basis of the 2001 finding against the Mujahedeen by Britain.

A three-judge panel led by Lord Nicholas Phillips, Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, said in a written ruling that there was “no reasonable prospect of success” for Ms. Smith, the home secretary, in going further with the government’s appeal against a November 2007 by Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission, a quasi-judicial body that rules on appeals by banned groups, that found in favor of the Mujahedeen. In effect, the appeal court upheld the claims by lawyers for the group that it had complied with its own renunciation of violence in 2000, when it announced it would no longer carry out terrorist attacks and would concentrate on peaceful opposition to the government in Teheran.

“The only conclusion that a reasonable decision maker could reach,” the court said, was that since the disarmament of the People’s Mujahedeen and allied groups in Iraq by American forces in 2003, the group “has not taken any steps to acquire or seek to acquire further weapons or to restore any military capability in Iraq.” The Mujahedeen, the judges said, “has not sought to recruit personnel for military-type or violent activities”, nor had it engaged in “military-type training of its existing members” or sought to support other groups in attacks on Iranian targets.

“To the extent that the P.M.O.I. has retained networks and supporters inside Iran since, at the latest, 2002”, the judges said, using the common acronym for the group, “they have been directed to social protest, finance and intelligence gathering activities which would not fall within the definition of ‘terrorism’ for the purposes of the 2000 Act.”

The People’s Mujahedeen is also on the United States’ list of banned terror groups, and Bush Administration officials have said in the past that they have no plans to lift the ban. But if Britain, and later Europe, lift their bans, the group would be able to use its legalization as a basis for raising money and organizing resistance to the ruling ayatollahs in Iraq.

An alliance of Islamists and secular leftists with roots that go back to the Iranian resistance to Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s rule in the mid-1960’s, it is regarded as potentially the most potent force in the Iranian resistance.

Spokesmen for the People’s Mujahedeen in London and Paris demanded after Wednesday’s ruling that the British authorities, and the European Council of Ministers, act promptly to remove the “terrorist label” from the group, allowing it to resume normal activities. The group says it is committed to restoring democracy in Iraq, and opposes any attempt by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. It says intelligence that led Western powers to conclude that Iran has a nuclear weapons program was provided to Britain and the United States by agents of the People’s Mujahedeen inside Iran.

The appeal court ruling in London was marked among People’s Mujahedeen supporters by a combination of bitter rebukes for Britain’s Labor government for having imposed the ban, and adulation for 35 British parliamentarians from across the political spectrum who grouped together to lead the challenge to the ban in the courts. Maryam Rajavi, the 55-year-old Teheran-born metallurgist who is president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said in a video link-up from Paris, where she is based, said the ruling marked the end of “the grave insult” to the People’s Mujahedeen resulting from its proscription as a terrorist group.

“The terrorist label has crumbled”, she said. “The era of grave injustice to the Iranian resistance has come to an end. The mullahs and their backers are left in disgrace. This is a great victory for the Iranian people”.

Mrs. Rajavi, who had one sister executed under the Shah and another tortured to death after the ayatollahs took power in Iran in 1979, demanded that the British government take action immediately to comply with the court ruling, and that the European Union and the United States also end their bans on the People’s Mujahedeen. “The terrorist label against the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran must be removed now,” she said. “The terrorist label is the hallmark of the era of appeasing the mullahs’ regime. That era has come to an end.”

Mrs. Rajavi’s remarks were met with wild cheering and the waving of Iranian flags by supporters gathered at a London hotel, where the celebrations were linked by live video hook-ups to Paris and to the People’s Mujahedeen camp at Ashraf in Iraq, about 65 miles northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border. The scene at Ashraf was one of similar jubilation, with hundreds of men in green military uniforms and women in grey robes with scarlet headscarves leaping from their seats in a huge auditorium to chant their support for the court ruling and for Mrs. Rajavi.

After participating in the overthrow of the Shah, the People’s Mujahedeen quickly fell out with Iran’s ruling ayatollahs, and its members were among the primary victims of the terror that Teheran’s new rulers launched against those who opposed them. Thousands of them were tortured and executed, and survivors fled abroad, first to Europe, and many of them later to Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein’s protection in Iraq from the mid-1980’s, the groups’ military wing fought with Iraqi troops in the Iran-Iraq war, and organized a campaign of terrorist attacks against Iranian targets inside Iran and abroad.

(View Source – New York Times)