A man died in unclear circumstances when Albanian police raided the compound of the exiled Iranian oppositionist MEK group, saying that its members might have been involved in prohibited political activity.
MEK members protest at their compound near Durres after the police raid on Tuesday. Photo: LSA
One person died on Tuesday as police raided the compound of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (People’s Mujahedin of Iran), MEK in Mezez near Durres in Albania and clashed with some of the Iranian oppositionist group’s members.
Interior Minister Bledi Cuci told media that the police were “enforcing a court order” to seize devices and equipment inside the compound because the Special Prosecution had “reasonable doubts” that MEK members were involved in political activity, which is prohibited under the terms of the agreement allowing them to stay in Albania.
Cuci said that MEK members resisted the police operation but that officers were not responsible for the death of one of them.
“I guarantee you that the death of the person in the compound was not caused by the State Police,” she said.
The head of of the State Police, Muhamet Rrumbullaku, denied allegations that officers had used violence against MEK members, saying that police had only used pepper spray against individuals who were not complying.
But the National Council of Resistance of Iran, of which MEK is a leading member, said in a statement that one man was killed in the raid and many people harmed by the police action.
“As a result of this criminal attack, a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), Mr. Ali Mostashari, was killed and more than 100 people were injured due to police firing pepper spray. Many of them are in critical condition and some were transferred to Mother Teresa Hospital in Tirana,” the secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said.
Around 3,000 members of the MEK, a long-exiled group that opposes the Iranian Islamic regime, moved to Albania between 2013 and 2016.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the reason for the police operation was that “MEK has not respected the 2014 agreement” allowing its members to reside in Albania.
It said that MEK had taken actions that contravened the commitments it made when it “settled in Albania for humanitarian purposes alone”.
“Unfortunately, this group has not adhered to these commitments, breaching the agreement,” the ministry added.
The 2014 agreement allowing the MEK to base itself in Albania has mostly been kept secret.
The MEK resettled in Albania from Iraq after coming under attack from pro-Iranian groups after the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and constructed its large compound in a rural area.
The group gained backing from some prominent anti-Tehran figures in the Trump administration as a potential future alternative to the Iranian regime and was even visited by former US Vice President Mike Pence last year.
Founded in 1965 as a left-leaning opposition to the former Shah of Iran’s regime, it turned against the Islamic Republic following the 1979 revolution.
The US listed it as a terrorist organisation in 1997 but removed it from the blacklist in 2012 after it renounced violence.
By Fjori Sinoruka – Balkaninsight