- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

PARIS — Heavily armed, masked French police yesterday raided the offices of an Iranian opposition group accused of links to terrorism, detaining 165 persons and seizing $1.3 million, the government said.

On the orders of France’s leading anti-terrorism judge, about 1,300 police poured into the streets and knocked down doors of offices of the Mujahedeen Khalq in a vast sweep of sites north and west of Paris.

Police also seized computer material and sophisticated transmission systems, an investigator said.

Officials would not say why they were cracking down now on the Mujahedeen Khalq, which has been allowed to operate openly in France for about 20 years. Judicial officials said the raids, on offices housing the group’s political arm, had been planned for a month.

But the action came as demonstrators for democracy in Iran have become emboldened and as Europeans urge Iran to open its nuclear sites to international inspections. Tehran had complained that Western nations were allowing the Mujahedeen to operate freely while, at the same time, accusing Iran of links to terrorist organizations in the Middle East.

The Mujahedeen’s Iraq-based military wing was disarmed by U.S. forces in May under a surrender agreement after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The well-armed National Liberation Army of Iran had used neighboring Iraq to mount operations against Iran in an effort to topple the Islamic Republic.

The group, also called the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, was declared a terrorist organization by the European Union in May 2002. The United States also classifies it a terror group, although many members of Congress reject that label and support its efforts to remove the regime in Iran.

Among those detained were Maryam Rajavi, wife of Mujahedeen leader Massoud Rajavi, who is based in Iraq, and Saleh Rajavi, Massoud’s brother, judicial officials said.

The raids were carried out on the orders of French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere for “criminal association aimed at preparing terrorism acts and for financing a terrorist enterprise,” the Interior Ministry said.

The group’s offices in Paris “are considered organizational, logistical and operational bases of questionable financing,” the ministry statement said.

The $1.3 million, in $100 bills, was found stashed in a villa in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris, where the group kept its headquarters, police said. The sweep included buildings in the Yvelines region west of Paris.

Of 165 persons rounded up, 158 were kept for questioning, police said.

“The individuals arrested in the unjustifiable raids this morning were all in France legally and had not conducted any illegal activity whatsoever,” Mujahedeen spokesman Ali Safavi said by telephone yesterday from London.

“They have churned out these lies to justify this act, which is only to the satisfaction of the terrorist regime that rules Iran,” he said.

French judicial officials opened an investigation into possible terrorist links by the group in 2001. However, the prosecutors office only added “financing a terrorist enterprise” to the dossier last week, according to judicial officials. It was not clear what prompted the addition.

The Mujahedeen have been based in France since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Iranian monarchy and brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power.

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