- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

PARIS — French judges yesterday placed 17 suspects under investigation for links to terrorism in a crackdown on an Iranian exile group that triggered a hunger strike in Washington and protests in several European capitals.

The suspects, who are one step short of being charged, include Maryam Rajavi, a co-leader of the Mujahideen Khalq and wife of the group’s chief, judicial officials said on the condition of anonymity.

Police on Tuesday raided the Mujahideen Khalq’s offices near Paris. Authorities initially detained more than 150 members of the group, which the United States and European Union have linked to terrorism. Mrs. Rajavi and 10 others remain in custody.

The raids set off protests by the group’s supporters in Washington, Paris, Rome, London and elsewhere, with several setting themselves on fire. A woman in Paris died from her burns.

The supporters in Washington yesterday entered the sixth day of a hunger strike outside the French Embassy. They said the health of some protesters was deteriorating.

“France has shamefully continued its unlawful and politically motivated detention of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi along with … members of Iranian resistance,” the group said in a statement.

“Iranian-Americans call upon the democratic governments of the world to stand by the millions of Iranians and their resistance movement against the terrorist regime of Iran and its dirty plots in France.”

A statement issued in Paris urged supporters to remain calm.

“We appeal to aggrieved compatriots to refrain from self-immolation and only pursue their demands through peaceful sit-ins,” it said.

The 17 persons placed under investigation were questioned at a Paris courthouse late Saturday and early yesterday. Riot police and other security forces surrounded the building and blocked access to a nearby subway station and the adjacent Sainte-Chapelle church, a tourist attraction.

Authorities questioned the suspects about their activities with the Mujahideen Khalq, which opposes the Muslim clerical government in Iran. The group has been based in France since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Iranian monarchy.

Those put under investigation were being probed for “association of criminals in relation with a terrorist enterprise” and “financing of a terrorist enterprise,” officials said.

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