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The legal road to justice for PMOI

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Message Jubin Afshar

An Iranian group tagged as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997 has challenged the Secretary of State's designation of the group in court. According to legal experts the group may have a real chance, as the circumstances since the original designation have substantially changed.

The case was heard by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Tuesday, January 12. The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran v. US Department of State, is yet another chapter in the group's unrelenting battle to clear its name from terror lists in Europe and the United States.

The PMOI has won hard-fought legal battles in Britain and Europe as competent courts ruled to remove it from terror lists on grounds that there is no evidence to support a terror designation.

The State Department claims that it can designate the group as "terrorist" by merely resting on classified information, the veracity of which is unknown, despite the fact that the group's members, mostly in a refugee camp in Iraq, are voluntarily disarmed and internationally protected persons. The PMOI has refuted any connection to terrorism. Its leaders continually call for democratic change in Iran as it has shown its commitment to the rule of law everywhere in exile.

The State Department branded PMOI (MEK) as an FTO in 1997 in what a former administration official described as a goodwill gesture to the Iranian government. A policy that stemmed from a naà ve reading of Iran and based the FTO designation on politically expedient foreign policy goals rather than facts, the PMOI contends.

PMOI officials content that hampering the movement was a strategic mistake that set back the goal for a pluralistic, secular democracy in a non-nuclear Iran, and peace in the region.

But how can the PMOI possibly plea a case if the evidence against it is wholly classified? In court on Tuesday, the Secretary of State's counsel admitted that former Secretary Rice, who denied the group's petition in January 2009, relied entirely on classified material to do so.

"Did you provide them with unclassified material before the January 2009 decision?" asked Judge David S. Tatel of Douglas Letter, the Secretary of State's counsel. "Not really," replied Letter.

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Jubin Afshar, is Director of the Near East Project at Near East Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
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