- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003

A small but vocal group of Iranian-Americans demanded yesterday that an Iranian resistance group be removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Demonstrating outside the Cannon House Office Building, 60 supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) hoisted placards reading “Remove the ‘Terror’ Tag from Iranian Mojahedin Now” and “PMOI [means] Legitimate Resistance Movement.”

Others waved the green, white and red flag of Iran and chanted, “Down with terrorist mullahs of Iran. Long live mojahedin of Iran.”

The International Committee in Support of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran organized yesterday’s rally and a sit-in, which began May 11.

PMOI supporter Ramesh Sepehrrad noted yesterday that Maj. Gen. Ray Odierono, commander of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Iraq, met with leaders of the Iraqi-based PMOI on May 11 and said the group’s status as a terrorist organization should be reviewed.

The People’s Mojahedin, or Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK), was ordered to lay down its weapons and cease its operations in northeast Baghdad. It had operated in prewar Iraq under Saddam Hussein to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran.

The group’s terrorist designation dates to the Clinton administration, which put it in the same category as Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. During the 1970s, the group was accused in attacks that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Iran, although the group denies targeting Americans, the Associated Press has reported. The group is reported to have backed the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 but later broke with Iran’s government.

Dozens of the group’s supporters on Capitol Hill have suggested that its terrorist designation is a political gesture to Iran that could be reversed.

“The PMOI have been fighting against this regime since its inception in 1980, and 150 members of Congress support removing the group from the terrorist list,” said PMOI supporter David Johnson of Vienna. “The U.S. Congress considers the PMOI a legitimate resistance movement.”

Ms. Sepehrrad, 33, who lives in Reston, said supporters will not budge until the State Department removes the PMOI from its list of terrorist groups. She said Iranian Americans are traveling from around the country to meet with their representatives.

“One hundred twenty thousand people have already been executed by the current regime of Iran. And there are currently 150,000 political prisoners facing torture and harassment by the Iranian regime. The Iranian people deserve democracy and freedom, and PMOI is the fruit of the 24 years of struggle against theocracy,” Ms. Sepehrrad said.

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