EU ministers drop Iran group from terror list
26.01.09 @ 10:28
BRUSSELS - Iranian opposition group PMOI has won a seven-year battle to get off the EU's terrorism blacklist, in developments that could damage Europe's efforts to talk Tehran out of building a nuclear bomb.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (26 January) agreed as an "A point" - an agenda point with no political debate - to remove the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) from the EU terrorist register.
The move follows a ruling by the EU court in Luxembourg in December which censured France for failing to disclose alleged new evidence that PMOI poses a terrorist threat.
British courts in May last year, which had access to classified evidence, also said the group should be struck off a UK blacklist, generating political momentum for Monday's EU decision.
The foreign ministers' move allows PMOI to freely raise funds in Europe and removes the stigmatic label attached to its members since 2002.
Iran has in past years executed PMOI supporters after calling them "terrorists" with reference to the EU list, a spokesman for PMOI sister group, the Paris-based National Resistance Council of Iran (NRCI), told EUobserver.
"All we want is democratic elections in Iran," the NRCI's Shahin Gobadi said.
He added that "thousands" of pro-PMOI demonstrators are to hold a rally in Brussels on Tuesday, when the ministers' decision becomes law after it is published in the EU's Official Journal.
PMOI was set up in the 1960s in resistance to the US-backed Shah. It launched armed attacks against Iran's Islamic regime in the 1980s and 1990s but renounced violence in 2001 and gave up arms in 2003.
Tehran says PMOI is still a dangerous personality cult centred around Paris-based exile Maryam Rajavi, whose leadership should be brought to justice for past acts of violence.
"The record of the Mojahedin's actions is very heavy and if the EU decides to remove them from the terrorist list, it will be a conscious political decision," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said on Sunday, newswires report.
A few hundred Islamist protesters picketed the French embassy in Tehran the same day, shouting "Death to Sarkozy," accusing the French leader of letting PMOI off the hook. The British embassy in Tehran is to be targeted on Monday.
The EU's decision comes amid long-running efforts by the five veto holding-powers of the UN Security Council (the US, Russia, China, France and the UK) plus Germany to persuade Iran to halt a uranium-enrichment project which could help it build nuclear weapons.
The PMOI delisting is the first time the EU has taken a group off the terrorist register following complaints that the EU's secretive decision-making process undermined people's right to legal redress.
PMOI has also seen the fastest-ever ruling by the EU Court of First Instance in December, after jurists felt the council of ministers was exploiting legal loopholes based on time lags.