February 19, 2018

Court orders US to review terror label for Iran exiles


WASHINGTON — A US court has ordered the government to examine quickly a request by the main Iranian opposition group to be taken off a US terror blacklist, according to documents seen Wednesday by AFP.

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), Iran’s main exiled opposition, has appealed to US courts to rule urgently on the issue “to prevent the Iraqi government from continuing to endanger the lives of PMOI at Camp Ashraf, Iraq.”

Camp Ashraf, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Iranian border, houses some 3,300 supporters of the exiled group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States since 1997.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein welcomed the exiles to Iraq during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war and they have lived at the camp ever since.

But it has become a mounting problem for Iraqi authorities since US forces handed over security for the camp in January 2009, and amid pressure from Tehran to hand over the members of the militant group.

Baghdad is now seeking to close the camp by April.

The People’s Mujahedeen is the main component of the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance, which said an attack by Iraqi forces on the camp in April 2011 left 36 people dead and 300 injured.

The Mujahedeen in its filing said “expedited consideration by this court is necessary and to forestall the humanitarian crisis that threatens to unfold as third countries are reluctant to accept Ashraf residents for resettlement as long as PMOI remains on the (terror) list.”

The Washington appeals court on Monday gave the US government until March 26 to reply to the People’s Mujahedeen request.

The same court in 2010 ruled that the secretary of state had violated the constitution by refusing the group’s request, and had given the State Department 180 days to review the status of the People’s Mujahedeen.

“The secretary’s indecision imperils the lives and safety of PMOI’s members and supporters,” the Mujahedeen argued.

But the government has argued that it needs time to coordinate its response at a high-level, among different agencies including with intelligence bodies.