BEIRUT

Middle East

Iran opposition group welcomes removal from U.S. terror list

PARIS: Opposition group the People's Mujahedeen of Iran on Saturday welcomed its imminent removal from the U.S. terror blacklist, saying it would help boost the fight against Islamic "fascism".

The move was "the first step in correcting the mistaken and catastrophic policy of connivance with religious fascism that has inflicted such pain on the Iranian people," a spokesman of the now Paris-based group said.

The plan to remove the group from the list was announced just days ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a U.S. court by which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to decide on the fate of the group, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).

It follows years of intense lobbying by the MEK, a left-wing group founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but which then took up arms against the new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The group has gone through several evolutions, and MEK members and their supporters say the group has laid down its arms and aims to work to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran through peaceful means.

MEK spokesman Afchine Alavi said in a statement Saturday that the ban had become "an obstacle to regime change and to the establishment of democracy in Iran".

The group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, joining a group that now includes Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. The delisting will end a complex legal battle fought through the U.S. and European courts.

Britain struck the group off its terror list in June 2008, followed by the European Union in 2009.

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said that if Clinton did not decide whether to deny or grant the group's request to be delisted within four months, it would issue a special writ and remove the group itself.

The State Department had accused the mujahedeen of carrying out attacks that killed Iranians, as well as American soldiers and civilians, from the 1970s into 2001.

 

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