- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Human rights activist and Iranian dissident Mahnaz Samadi entered an Arlington, Va., immigration court yesterday facing deportation and possible execution in Iran, but she was released after three months' detention in time to have lunch with her friends.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service dropped terrorism charges against Miss Samadi that stemmed from her having worked for an Iranian opposition group that later was labeled a terrorist organization by Washington.

Miss Samadi was released yesterday morning in a deal her lawyers and supporters described as a "complete victory" and "total vindication."

The INS said that while Miss Samadi had been released and would not be deported to Iran, she faces deportation to a third country.

"She has been ordered removed," said Russ Bergeron, INS spokesman.

In reply, Miss Samadi said, "I have been vindicated of the charge of terrorism and I can continue my activities against the Iranian regime that is what was important to me."

"I thank God and everybody who helped free me," Miss Samadi said after her release.

She said that if she had been ordered deported to Iran, she would have faced certain execution.

She said pressure from Capitol Hill, human rights organizations and the media had won her release.

"The terrorists are in Iran, not here," said Mansoureh Zamani, a Samadi supporter from Herndon, Va., who wept tears of joy upon hearing the verdict. "This is really a miracle for us."

Upon her release, Miss Samadi was given a bouquet of roses, a new jacket and colorful head scarf, and swept off to a friend's home for a celebration and a meal of Iranian beef stew and pastries. There she spent the afternoon greeting dozens of supporters and working on a statement to be released at a Capitol Hill press conference today.

Members of Congress who had been lobbying for her release were pleased with the turn of events.

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, yesterday called Miss Samadi a "devoted advocate of human rights whose presence in this country enhances our society."

Yesterday, the INS dropped the charges against Miss Samadi and agreed to not to deport her to Iran.

In return, Miss Samadi admitted that she did not list her association with the National Liberation Army on her 1995 asylum application, a group the State Department designated a terrorist group two years later.

Her lawyer, Michael Maggio, called her admission the price of getting the charges dropped and her immediate release.

Yesterday, the INS said Miss Samadi had agreed to "an order of removal," which means she can be deported to any country other than Iran that will take her.

Mr. Bergeron said U.S. government agencies would look for a country to accept Miss Samadi.

In the meantime, he said, Miss Samadi must tell the INS where she is living, report to the INS on a regular basis and inform the INS of any travel outside the United States.

Miss Samadi was arrested on April 3 and held in several INS facilities around the United States until yesterday's resolution. During that time, more than 60 members of Congress petitioned Attorney General Janet Reno and INS Commissioner Doris Meissner for Miss Samadi's release.

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, also came to her aid.

Miss Samadi spent four years in an Iranian jail in the 1980s for opposition to the mullah's fundamentalist regime. Two of her brothers were executed, and her sister spent 10 years in jail.

Upon her release, Miss Samadi escaped from Iran and spent several months training with the National Liberation Army in Iraq. In 1994, she left the group and came to the United States. In 1995 she was granted political asylum in the United States but did not mention her association with the NLA in her application.

She has since won international recognition for her work speaking on human and women's rights in Iran.

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