In a setback to France's war against terrorism, a Paris appeals court today ordered the release on bail of a leader of
Paris: In a setback to France's war against terrorism, a Paris appeals court today ordered the release on bail of a leader of a long-established armed Iranian opposition group.
The decision ran counter to a recommendation by the public prosecutor this week that Maryam Rajavi, who heads the People's Mujahedeen, or Mujahedeen Khalq, with her husband, Massoud Rajavi, should remain in police custody as a threat to public order.
It also hinders the effort by the French counterintelligence service, the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance, to shut down the organization's operation in France. In an interview on Friday, Pierre de Bousquet, the agency's director, accused the organization of being a dangerous cult that was "expanding its terrorist operations." He expressed concern that it could "start organizing and planning attacks from French soil."
Ms. Rajavi was arrested June 17 in a huge sweep that led to the detention of more than 150 members of the group. The police also seized more than $8 million in $100 bills.
The top antiterrorism judge in France, Jean-Louis Bruguière, ordered the raids after uncovering what was called a "criminal conspiracy with the intent to prepare acts of terrorism and financing of a terrorist enterprise."
While most of those arrested were released within hours, Ms. Rajavi and 10 others had been held on suspicion of planning possible terrorist attacks against Iranian targets and individuals in Europe.
On Tuesday, two members of the movement were released on bail, followed by the release today of Ms. Rajavi and eight other associates.
William Bourdon, Ms. Rajavi's lawyer, said her bail had been set at 80,000 euros (more than $92,000).
Ms. Rajavi and six others still under suspicion will be required to live at her base at Auvers-sur-Oise, outside Paris, and remain in France for the duration of the investigation. Ms. Rajavi lives legally in France as a political refugee.
"In a state of law, there is always a judge that will keep politics out of the courts, and this is what happened," Mr. Bourdon said in a telephone interview.
The Mujahedeen has been designated a terrorist organization by both the American State Department and the European Union.
In an unintended consequence of the American-led war against Iraq and the subsequent collapse of Saddam Hussein's government, the fate of thousands of Iraq-based Mujahedeen followers, including heavily armed troops, is in American hands.
In the interview last week, Mr. de Bousquet said the Mujahedeen were planning to move their global operations from Iraq to France. There was also a strong desire among French officials to crack down on the group at a time when some in the Bush administration were suggesting it might be a potential force to use against Iran.
The Mujahedeen has little support inside Iran. It set up its headquarters in Iraq in the mid-1980's, at a time when Iran and Iraq were fighting a war, and had enjoyed financial and military support from Mr. Hussein.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli called for tougher measures against the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, also known as the MEK, PMOI and NCRI) terrorist group by the European Union...