An Iranian opposition group on Monday asked a federal appeals court to order its removal from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and says the status is putting its members long exiled in Iraq at risk.
The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran accused the State Department in a court filing Monday of ignoring a 2010 court order that it reconsider its status as a terrorist group. The group is also known by its Farsi name, Mujahadin-e-Khalq or MEK. It carried out a series of bombings and assassinations against Iran's clerical regime in the 1980s and fought alongside Saddam's forces in the Iran-Iraq war. But the group says it renounced violence in 2001.
The group asked the State Department to remove it from the terrorist list in 2008, but was rejected and asked the appeals court to overturn the decision. The group argued before the court that it ended its military campaign, rejected violence and disarmed. But the State Department responded that intelligence and other information showed "the MEK has not shown that the relevant circumstances are sufficiently different" and the group continues to engage in terrorism or "retains the capability and intent to."
The appeals court ruled in July 2010 that the State Department violated the group's due process protections in rejecting its petition. It allowed the group to remain on the terrorist list while ordering the department to give the group an opportunity to rebut arguments against its removal before making a final decision on its status.
State Department spokeswoman Rhonda Shore said the department is reviewing the group's designation in accordance with the appeals court order and the law. She gave no indication of how long that could take.
But the department is not expected to make a decision on the group anytime soon, according to a U.S. official speaking on a condition of anonymity because the examination is ongoing. The department is still evaluating the merits of taking the group off the terrorism list or keeping it on, the official said.
The group says its status as a terrorist group is affecting more than 3,300 members who have been living in exile at Camp Ashraf in Iraq since Saddam Hussein welcomed them three decades ago in a common fight against Iran. But they are now being pressured to leave by the new Iraqi government, which wants to build stronger ties with Iran. The group says the Iraqi government has used its terrorist status to justify mistreatment of the residents _ an Iraqi army raid last year left 34 exiles dead _ and has made it difficult to relocate the residents to other nations.
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.