GOVERNMENT- IRANIAN GROUP SHOULD STAY BANNED

Is UK inviting Massoud Rajavi to London today?

An appeal panel’s decision to remove the main Iranian opposition movement from the UK’s list of banned terrorist organisations was challenged by the Government in the Court of Appeal today.

Lawyers for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith argued that the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) had not given "a clear and unequivocal denunciation of terrorism".

Last November, a cross-party group of 35 MPs and peers won a ruling from the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (POAC) that the PMOI should be delisted and that the Government’s decision to keep it on the proscribed list was "perverse".

But Home Office counsel Jonathan Swift told the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, today that the Government feared the PMOI’s professed cessation of terrorist activities was temporary and "for pragmatic reasons".

Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Arden, heard that the pro-democracy PMOI was formed 40 years ago with the aim of replacing the then-government of the Shah of Iran. During the 1970s, it carried out a number of violent attacks against the Shah’s government and its western allies.

After the current regime came to power in 1979, the PMOI was engaged in a 20-year campaign of violence, internal and external, against the government.

Since the mid-1980s, it had also maintained an armed force in Iraq until it gave up its arms to US invaders in 2003.

The PMOI insisted it had been involved in no military activities since 2001 and that it had publicly denounced terrorism. The American authorities had granted special protected status to 3,000 of its members still held in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.

But Mr Swift told the judges that, in the light of the organisation’s history, the Home Secretary could not accept its assertion that it had undergone a significant and radical change of direction.

The POAC’s ruling followed a European court decision in December 2006 that the PMOI should come off the EU terror blacklist. Despite that ruling, it remains on the EU list.

The hearing, set for three days, was adjourned until tomorrow. The judges are expected to reserve judgment on Wednesday.

By Mike Taylor, PA-Press Association National Newswire

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