Sunday, January 25, 2009

Iranians protest PMOI removal off EU terror list

Hundreds of Iranians rallied in front of the French embassy on Sunday to protest at the European Union's likely removal of Iran's exiled armed opposition from its list of terror groups. The demonstrators shouted "Death to (Nicolas) Sarkozy" and "Europe be ashamed, leave the hypocrites" -- a term Iran uses to describe its main opposition, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI). The EU is expected to strike PMOI off its list of terror groups on Monday, ending a long legal battle. "Europeans must be aware of the consequences of such a decision in relations with Iran," said Mojtaba Keshani, a mid-ranking cleric addressing the crowd. Later on Sunday, the Iranian foreign ministry also lashed out at the EU.
"The record of the actions of hypocrites (PMOI) is very serious and if the EU decides to remove them from their list of terrorist groups, it will be considered a conscious political decision," Hassan Ghashghavi, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement to the semi-official agency Ilna. "The Iranian public is waiting to see if (the Europeans) will act in the case of hypocrites selectively and adopt an attitude of double standards or if they are serious in the fight against terrorism," he added. The Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance ruled last month that the EU had wrongly frozen the funds of the PMOI and violated its rights by not justifying why it was placed on the list. "The only outcome will be the worsening of ties between Iran and Europe," the cleric at the demonstration said, while acknowledging France's announcement that it had appealed against the ruling. Anti-riot police were deployed around the embassy in central Tehran and protesters also shouted "death to America" before calmly breaking off. A similar protest is expected to be held outside the British embassy on Monday, a demonstrator said. Formed in the 1960s in opposition to the rule of the U.S.-backed shah, the PMOI joined in the 1979 Islamic revolution but then took up arms against the new clerical regime. It killed several of Iran's new leaders in the first years after the revolution and backed the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980-1988 war with Iran. But major attacks had ceased by the early 1990s. The group has since 2002 tried to have itself removed from the EU list of terror organizations which are subject to an EU-wide assets freeze. It is also designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.