Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

EU keeps Iran opposition group on terror list

The EU has kept Iran opposition group PMOI on its new list of terrorist entities in a controversial move likely to spark complaints from MEPs as well as Danish and Italian parliamenterians.

"Entities listed in the annex to this decision have been involved in terrorist acts," the EU's Official Journal of 29 June states, with the annex naming the "Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MEK)...a.k.a...the People's Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI)."

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The register includes more than 60 groups and individuals and is largely unchanged compared to the last update in December, except for the addition of far-left Greek group Epanastatikos Agonas.

The list is dominated by Islamic organisations such as Hamas, but also features the Kurdish PKK group, the Tamil Tigers, ETA and Colombian rebels FARC. Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are handled by a different mechanism.

The new list was signed by German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel after an EU council meeting in Luxembourg on 28 June, where the 27 EU states gave assent to the move without discussion of the register's content.

The content itself was prepared by EU member state intelligence services meeting in Brussels two weeks back in a structure called "Clearing House," which operates in secrecy and is not subject to any political or judicial oversight.

The PMOI decision has seen a howl of protest from Paris-based sister group the NRCI, with NRCI spokesman Shahin Gobadi telling AP that "tens of thousands" of Iranian exiles will stage a march in Paris on Saturday.

The NRCI says that an EU court ruling last December, which annulled a 2002 decision to put PMOI on the register and freeze its funds, has not been honoured. But EU lawyers say the verdict does not cover subsequent decisions.

NRCI also alleges the new list is an attempt to curry favour with Tehran, with EU top diplomat Javier Solana set to meet again Iran's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in mid-July to talk about uranium enrichment.

PMOI in the 1990s organised border raids from a camp in Iraq against Iranian targets. But it renounced violence in 2001 and disarmed its Iraq unit, with the Iraq branch kept under strict US army control ever since.

Cult or democratic opposition?

Iran says the NRCI-PMOI-MEK movement at heart remains a fanatical cult centered around the person of Miriam Rajavi, with an internal ideology that would see members willing to die to keep her out of jail.

"Arrest her and you will see what happens," one Iranian official said. "If Al-Qaida said it renounced violence, would you let them organise marches in the centre of Brussels? Would you forgive them for the people they have killed?"

But NRCI says the Iranian talk is the hollow "propaganda" of a discredited regime, with hundreds of European MPs, MEPs and other assorted VIPs, such as retired jurists, also campaigning to clear PMOI's name.

European backers

The Danish and Italian parliaments have passed resolutions demanding more transparency on evidence against PMOI. "The council's handling of this case is scandalous," Spanish conservative MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca recently said.

The EU court controversy has seen some minor changes to the terrorist register, with "statements of reasoning" now sent to all the entities on the list and talk of introducing limited checks on Clearing House in future.

But in the case of PMOI, the "reasoning" was an unconvincing text citing pre-2001 activity only. When PMOI challenged the document, the portcullis slammed down, with EU officials saying they had other, secret evidence they could not share.

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