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French Court Frees Last Members of Iranian Opposition Group Still Under Detention - 2003-07-02


A Paris appeals court has ordered the release Wednesday of nine members of the Iranian opposition Mujahedeen Khalq group, including its leader Maryam Rajavi. The investigation continues into whether the group has terrorist ties.

Mrs. Rajavi is expected to be released on bail early Thursday, and is likely to return to the Mujahedeen Khalq's political headquarters in the Paris suburb of Auvers-sur-Oise. She is among some 164 members of the group arrested in June, as part of a larger inquiry into whether the group had ties to terrorism.

Their arrests sparked widespread demonstrations across Europe, and several people set themselves on fire. With the release of Mrs. Rajavi and eight others, no Mujahedeen member remains under detention in France. But several remain under investigation, including Mrs. Rajavi.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Rajavi's lawyer, Henri Leclerc, hailed the court's decision to release her, suggesting French authorities lacked proof against the group. A Mujahedeen spokesman, Farid Soleimani, agrees.

"The action by the French judges clearly shows what we have been saying from the very outset of this episode. Which was that this is a case not based on any evidence related to terrorism but full of political and trade motivations," he said.

Mujahedeen members argue France struck a deal with the Iranian regime to arrest Mrs. Rajavi, whose group has carried on an armed resistance movement against the clerical regime for more than two decades.

But the Mujahedeen's armed branch is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. More recently, French authorities suggest resistance fighters were planning to move their base from Iraq to France, and plotted to strike Iranian interests in Europe.