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Iranian opposition group pushes to be removed from U.S. terror list

By Jamie Crawford, CNN National Security Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Over 100 supporters of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq rally Friday at the State Department
  • They say the U.S. is dragging its feet in keeping the group on a list of terror groups
  • Last July, a U.S. court ruled that the group's rights to due process had been violated
  • The group, which was put on the list in 1997, wants to oust Iran's ruling powers

Washington (CNN) -- Backers of an Iranian opposition group rallied outside the U.S. State Department on Friday demanding it be removed quickly from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, pointing to a court ruling issued a year ago that found its rights had been violated.

More than 100 supporters of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, also known as MEK, congregated in northwest Washington to accuse the State Department of dragging its feet in deciding whether to keep them on the list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations."

Specifically, they alluded to a ruling issued last July by a federal appeals court in Washington. The three-judge panel found that Mujahedeen-e-Khalq's right to due process had been violated, because the State Department had not allowed the group to contest certain information used to justify its designation on the terror list.

"President Obama keeps saying he is with the Iranian people, he needs to show it right now," Shirin Nariman, a supporter of the group, told CNN at Friday's rally. "If he is really with the Iranian people, he needs to allow the main opposition group" to work inside Iran and around the world to push for the ouster of Iran's ruling hard-line government.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday that the U.S. agency is currently "undertaking a review" as to whether Mujahedeen-e-Khalq should be on the terror list. The final decision, as to whether the designation will be kept or rescinded, will be made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Now, my understanding is that the MEK Council provided additional information related to this review on June 6th," said Toner. "And we're currently reviewing this new material."

Mujahedeen-e-Khalq was put on the list by President Bill Clinton's administration in 1997 as part of an effort to engage what was thought to be a more liberal leadership than the current powers in Iran, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The group has many supporters in Congress, and several former high-ranking government officials have supported its removal from the terror list.

The group maintains a presence at a location called Camp Ashraf in northern Iraq, where more than 30 people were killed and several hundred injured in clashes with Iraqi security forces earlier this year.

The group was offered sanctuary in Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein, after his government waged an 8-year war with Iran. It was then protected by American forces after Hussein's regime fell. Camp Ashraf's status has become a source of international friction since it was transferred again to Iraqi government jurisdiction.

 
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