The United States on Friday removed an Iranian opposition group based abroad, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, from its blacklist of designated terror groups after years of intense lobbying.
The move, ending a complex legal battle fought through US and European courts, came just days ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a US appeals court by which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to decide on the fate of the group.
“The secretary of state has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224,” the State Department said in a statement.
“Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of US persons will no longer be blocked, and US entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license.”
The MEK, whose leadership is based in Paris, has invested much money and years of intense lobbying to be taken off the list.
The leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted him it took up arms against Iran’s clerical rulers.
The MEK says it has now laid down its arms and is working to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran through peaceful means.
But in its note about delisting the MEK, the State Department stressed that it had not forgotten the group’s militant past.
“With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of US citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992,” it said.
“The department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.”
The United States designated it a “foreign terrorist organization” in 1997, putting it in a category that includes Al-Qaeda, the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The State Department deems the MEK responsible for the deaths of Iranians as well as US soldiers and civilians from the 1970s into 2001.
It said that Clinton’s decision to delist the group “took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base” in Iraq.
Part of the conditions for delisting the group were that more than 3,200 MEK members living at the Camp Ashraf base in Iraq’s Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, must move to another area called Camp Liberty.
“The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq,” the State Department said.