The Washington Times
BY JAMES MORRISON
The Iranian resistance won another victory in a U.S. federal court this week, when a three-judge
panel ruled the group has a right to a speedy hearing on its petition to be removed from the U.S.
terrorist list – after nearly two years of delay by the State Department.
The judges gave the federal government until March 26 to respond to the People’s Mojahedin
Organization of Iran (PMOI), which was added to the list by President Bill Clinton when he was
trying to open talks with the theocratic Iranian regime in 1997.
“It’s certainly a favorable development,” said Ali Safavi, president of Near East Policy Research
in Northern Virginia and a supporter of the PMOI.
Mr. Safavi said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recognized that 3,300
members and supporters of the PMOI face a life-threatening situation in Camp Ashraf in Iraq,
where they have been based since the 1980s.
The Iraqi government has ordered the Iranians expelled from the country by the end of April, but
no other nation will accept them as refugees because the PMOI is on the U.S. terror list. Iraqi
security forces have attacked the unarmed camp residents twice, killing 11 in July 2009 and 34
in April 2011.
The Justice Department, representing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, argued that
the court should deny the PMOI’s request for a writ of mandamus, a legal maneuver that asks a
court to enforce an earlier order.
In 2010, the court ruled that the State Department had violated the PMOI’s constitutional right
to due process two years earlier when then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused a
request from the group to be removed from the list.
The court gave the Obama administration 180 days to review the status of the PMOI, which
renounced its armed struggle against Iran in 2003, when U.S. forces disarmed the rebels after
the invasion of Iraq.
Nearly two years later, the government is still arguing it needs more time to consider whether
the resistance meets the standards to remain listed as a terrorist group.
Justice Department attorney Douglas N. Letter, in his response to the PMOI case, said the
State Department must review “highly classified information, expert analyses of the material
in the administration record, delicate foreign relations concerns and complex national security
He argued that a decision on the PMOI’s status would have to be made by high-level officials at
the State, Treasury and Justice departments.
PMOI attorney Viet Dinh, a former Justice Department lawyer, complained about
the “unwarranted and unreasonable” delay by the State Department.
“While the secretary [of state] dithers on PMOI’s request to revoke its [terrorist] designation,
Ashraf residents face a continuing threat of deadly violence from Iraqi forces, and other
countries are reluctant to accept them for resettlement as long as PMOI remains on the list,” Mr.
Earlier this week, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee pressed Mrs. Clinton to
take the PMOI off the terrorist list.
“We are deeply concerned about the security and safety of these residents of Camp Ashraf,”
Mrs. Clinton said. “We continue to work on our review of the [PMOI] designation.”