- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

What affection the Clinton administration seems to have for dictators and thugs. First it delivered Elian Gonzalez to the arms of Fidel Castro, operator of the longest running gulag since Stalin. Now it wants to return a human rights activist, Mahnaz Samadi, to the fatal embrace of Iranian mullahs at the same time, coincidentally, that the U.S. State Department courts them politically.

Today the 35-year-old Miss Samadi is scheduled to appear at a deportation hearing in Arlington on charges that she was once part of an anti-mullah military group that sought to undermine the regime. More specifically, says the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), she "carried out orders of [her] superiors and prepared units under [her] command for coordinated attacks designed to liberate Iran."

Liberating Iran doesn't exactly sound like a crime to anyone outside the administration. The State Department itself has designated the Iranian regime a state sponsor of terrorism. But in March, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began making conciliatory noises toward the Iranians in a diplomatic initiative to make friendly with government "moderates" there. Suddenly Miss Samadi, not the regime, finds herself a target of U.S. justice, shackled in irons and strip-searched, awaiting possible deportation to Iran and, once there, a possible, even probable, death sentence.

It was to escape just such treatment that Miss Samadi originally fled to the United States. Imprisoned for four years in Iran because of her opposition to the country's clerical regime, Miss Samadi says she was forced to witness the torture of her older brother. Eventually he was executed, as was another brother. Miss Samadi says she too was tortured but ultimately released. In 1994 she made her way to the United States and gained asylum. She spent most of the next six years lobbying members of Congress about human rights abuses in Iran.

Her more recent problems started when she was arrested in Canada in connection with an invalid visa and deported to the United States in April. U.S. officials arrested her at the border and jailed her as a terrorist. Why the sudden hostility? INS officials say the only reason she gained asylum in the first place is that she lied on her application; she failed to acknowledge that for about seven months in 1993, she was a member of the anti-mullah National Liberation Army (NLA). Why that should matter now isn't clear. The State Department declared the NLA a terrorist organization in 1997 (a designation that many members of Congress challenge), three years after Miss Samadi arrived in this country. By then she was no longer a member of the group anyway, and she has spent her time in the United States without incident.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers has risen to Miss Samadi's defense. More than 60 have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno demanding her immediate release. New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli's comments are typical. "Sending messages to foreign governments should not involve the taking of people's lives," he said. "She faces certain death. This is outrageous. It cannot be permitted to happen."

The administration should free her now. If it wants to romance the mullahs, the administration should send flowers, not Miss Samadi.

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