VILLEPINTE, France (AP) – Thousands rallied Saturday outside Paris to decry a recent European Union decision to keep an Iranian opposition group on a terror blacklist, while a group leader insisted Iran is "on the verge of exploding."
Supporters of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran came from around Europe to the rally, many bused in to an exhibit center north of Paris. The group claimed up to 50,000 was present at the rally. Police figures were unavailable.
The People’s Mujahedeen, which is also on the State Department’s terror list, seeks the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic government. Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein let the group — also known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, or MEK — operate camps in Iraq from which it staged attacks on Iran.
The group says it is a peaceful movement of exiled Iranian opponents based in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris. It says its militants in Iraq have handed their weapons over to U.S.-led forces.
Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance, the group’s political wing, denounced the EU decision, which followed a court ruling the group believes went in its favor.
She also contended that a recent wave of unrest over an Iranian fuel-rationing plan, "is the true picture of a discontented society on the verge of exploding."
Iranians smashed shop windows and set fire to more than a dozen gas stations in their country’s capital, Tehran, and other cities because of the rationing, which took effect midnight Tuesday.
Rajavi, wearing a blue robe and head scarf, said the refusal Thursday by the 27-nation EU to take her group off the bloc’s terror list was aimed at appeasing Iran’s clerical regime.
"EU, shame on you!" cried the crowd, under a huge banner reading "A Free Iran with Maryam Rajavi."
The People’s Mujahedeen claims the EU has refused to apply an order last year from the European Court of Justice that annulled a 2002 decision to place the organization on the terrorist blacklist and order its assets frozen. It is seeking more than $1.35 million in damages from the EU.
EU legal experts maintain that the Court of Justice ruling focused on procedural problems only and did not imply the group must be taken off the blacklist.
Associated Press Newswires
By CECILE BRISSON, Associated Press Writer, 1 July 2007