Source: Al Jazeera
Jul 3, 2023
Iran condemns MEK rally in France as support for ‘terrorism’
Tehran blasts Paris for allowing meeting and protest by dissident group and thanks Albania after raid on what Iran considers a ‘terrorist’ organisation.
Tehran, Iran – Iran has lashed out against France for allowing a meeting and rally by the blacklisted Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahidin Organization, which Tehran says amounts to support for “terrorism”.
French officials need to “make up for their past mistakes” in backing the “murderers of Iranian people” and focus on the country’s “deep internal crisis” and discriminatory behaviour against its own citizens, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement late on Sunday.
Kanani was referring to nearly a week of violence and unrest in the European nation since the killing of a teenager by a French police officer.
“Instead, they create the grounds for a rally of terrorists whose drumbeat of ignominy in Albania was recently heard by the whole world,” he said, warning Paris of “political and legal” ramifications if it continues to accommodate the dissident group.
The MEK’s main camp in Albania, which is home to several thousand members, was raided by security police last month after a court order was issued to investigate unsanctioned political activities that went against a 2014 United States-brokered agreement that allowed its members to reside in the West Balkans nation.
The group said one of its members died, which Albanian police denied was a result of the raid, and electronics were confiscated. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the group cannot use the country to fight the establishment in Iran, which the MEK has said it aims to overthrow.
The organisation, based on Islamic and socialist ideology, used to be on the US and European Union “terrorist” list before being delisted more than a decade ago. Experts have said it operates like a “cult”.
At the weekend, it held a meeting on the outskirts of Paris as a group of its supporters rallied inside the city.
Former US Vice President Mike Pence, who is running in the 2024 presidential election, and short-time former United Kingdom Prime Minister Liz Truss addressed the MEK gathering outside Paris.
Pence said the “Iranian regime has never been weaker than it is today” after protests that erupted in September and presented the MEK as an alternative, according to media reports.
Pence, one of many senior US politicians who have supported the dissident group over the years, also met MEK leader Maryam Rajavi in Albania last year.
Tehran, which has blacklisted the group, has also sanctioned a number of US officials for their support of the MEK.
Truss was quoted as saying: “Now is the time to turn our backs on accommodation and appeasement” as “authoritarian” governments rise across the world, including in Iran.
France had briefly drawn the ire of the MEK last month when it banned the group’s rally due to potential tensions with other Iranian factions and the risk of an armed attack.
But a Paris court overturned the ban last week, allowing members to congregate in Place Vauban in the French capital.
Relations between Iran and Albania remain strained after Tirana cut diplomatic ties with Tehran with US and EU support after accusing it of a major cyberattack. Iran denies the allegation.
But in a statement on Sunday, the Iranian intelligence ministry thanked the Albanian government for “confronting terrorists” with its raid on the MEK camp, something it called a “step forward”. The ministry said it continues to be in contact with European intelligence services to warn them of MEK operations.
The intelligence ministry also announced that several MEK members were recently arrested inside Iran over alleged plans to attack state and public property using homemade grenades and explosives.
On Sunday, a report by Iranian state television reiterated Tehran’s claim that Paris supported “riots” in Iran that began in September. It accused the French government of gathering information through its embassy in Tehran, sending in “spies” who were arrested, conducting high-level meetings with Iranian dissidents and hosting gatherings and members of the MEK.