A federal appeals court has ruled that the State Department must re-evaluate its terrorist designation of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the main resistance organization of the Islamic republic.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously Friday that the State Department did not give the PMOI due process and that the U.S. must give the organization a chance to rebut accusations against it.
Canada and the U.S. are the only countries that still hold the PMOI to be a terrorist group. The European Union removed the group from its terrorist list in 2009 following several court cases, but in the same year the U.S. denied the PMOI's latest petition.
"The time has come for the U.S. government to respect the rule of law and justice and remove the PMOI from their terror list," said Struan Stevenson, a Scottish member of the European Parliament and president of Friends of a Free Iran, in a press release.
PMOI also has strong support in Congress. Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, said the court decision "is a long time coming" and that "the real terrorists - the corrupt regime in Tehran - are the ones we need to be punishing."
The Washington Times reported in June that a bipartisan group of members put forward a resolution calling for support for the Iranian resistance and removing the PMOI from the State Department's list of terrorist groups. It has 23 co-sponsors.
"It's time, after 13 years of bad decisions, to side with the Iranian people," said Shirin Nariman, the spokeswoman for the Virginia branch of the Council for Democratic Change in Iran.
On Monday, the State Department said that it would "study [the court's opinion] carefully," but that "the U.S. government still views the [PMOI] as a terrorist organization."
According to the State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, the PMOI "advocates the violent overthrow of the Iranian government." The report also listed several reported terrorist and "cultlike" activities.
"The decision in 2009 ... was based on the belief that the [PMOI] had not demonstrated that enough had changed to remove them from the terrorist list," said Rhonda Shore, public-affairs officer for the State Department Office of the Coordinator of Counterterrorism, citing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's decision.
However, the PMOI says it ceased military operations in 2001 and pushes for democracy in Iran.
There have been differing opinions in the State Department about the issue, and it has been suggested that the PMOI originally was designated a terrorist group in 1997 to initiate relations with the Iranian mullahs.
The Iranian Mission to the U.N. maintains that the PMOI is a terrorist group.
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