An EU review of its blacklist of terrorist organisations next month could clear the way for the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (or MeK) to operate openly in Europe. The British government has been considering how to respond to a May 7 Court of Appeal ruling that said outlawing the group in 2002 was wrong.
Meanwhile, key figure among Iranian opposition groups Maryam Rajavi has brought the case up the European Parliament’s debate agenda. In Brussels, Rajavi said: “The name of the mujahedeens must be taken off the list, to show that Europe is against the regime of the mullahs.”
As Rajavi sees it: “This list was a concession to the mullahs, who requested it.” She said: “It is the result of political complaisance.” At the moment, however, the EU does not want to derail efforts to restart international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme. MeK began as a leftist-Islamist opposition to the late Shah of Iran but fell out with Shi’ite clerics who took power after the Islamic Revolution there.
MeK’s critics say it works like a sect and brainwashes its followers. Rajavi has convinced British conservative MP David Jones and others to give it a hearing. Jones said: “If the highest Court in Britain, apart from the House of Lords, has decided that the British government proscription is unlawful, then I think the EU has got a positive duty to pay attention to that. The EU itself is a creation of law and is also an institution that should reside on the rule of law and if in fact it does not do that, then it stands for nothing at all.”
MeK also has an appeal pending at the European Court of Justice. As non-violent, it says it shouldn’t be considered in the same light as al-Qaida or Hezbollah – also on the EU’s terrorist list. International law professor Eric David in Brussels said: “The European Council should bow to the decision taken by the EU’s Court of First Instance to annul — truly annul — the Council decision to put the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran on the list of terrorist organisations.”
In 2003 French authorities arrested dozens of MeK members they believed were involved in financing and planning attacks. Several in the MeK put themselves to the torch in the streets of Paris in protest. The group claims to have renounced violence and is lobbying hard to have this accepted. In its present status, its accounts are frozen and its room to act is limited.