Iranian opposition activists are accusing the State Department of flouting a federal court’s year-old ruling ordering the removal of the Iranian resistance from the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations.
Supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to comply with the court order as they rallied outside the State Department last week to mark the anniversary of the ruling.
The State Department says it is still reviewing evidence about the group.
“Until the [MEK] are removed from the list, the U.S. policy is appeasing the current Iranian regime,” said Mohamad Alafchi, an Iranian-American protester from New York.
“The Iranian people see that. That’s the only reason they’re on the list — to appease the Iranian regime.”
“Were currently reviewing this new material,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “So, no decision has been made.”
High-level support for removing the MEK from the terrorist list range from former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge from the Bush administration to Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
President Clinton placed the resistance on the terrorist list in 1997 to meet a key demand of the Iranian government when he was trying to open relations with Tehran. Before that, the resistance operated openly in the United States with a Washington office.
The MEK first petitioned to get off the terrorism list in 2009, but the State Department rejected its appeal in early 2010. A year ago on Saturday, the federal court of appeals in Washington overturned that decision, but the MEK has remained on the list ever since.
Resistance members are demanding that Mrs. Clinton either present more evidence to prove the group is engaging or has recently undertaken terrorist activities or drop the accusation entirely.
The current legal debate is only the latest controversy in the MEK’s turbulent relationship with the United States since its founding in 1963. Led by a group of leftist Iranian university students, it carried out several bombings, abductions and hijacking operations in the 1970s that resulted in the deaths of six Americans in Iran, according to the State Department.
After the Iranian revolution, the MEK emerged as a key opposition group to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his brutal theocratic regime. In the 1980s, MEK leaders fled into exile to Camp Ashraf, 50 miles from Iran inside neighboring Iraq.
Then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the resistance to carry out attacks on Iran, his enemy in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
In 2003, the MEK signed an agreement with U.S.-led coalition forces to hand over all of its weapons. Bruce McColm, president of the Institute for Democratic Strategies, said that each of the 3,400 refugees was guaranteed security. The United States handed over the camp to Iraqi forces in 2009.