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"Delisting the MeK is a dark illusion and a shameful demonstration of the power of lobbyists," The NSW Middle East expert told The Australian. "I wouldn't call them a force for democracy in Iran, quite the opposite."

The Australian

Last month the US delisted the MEK as a terrorist group after a well-funded lobbying campaign.

 

Upon delisting the MEK, US State Department officials released a statement saying it "does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of US citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992.

 

"The department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members," it said.

 

"The secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade."

 

Now the MEK is lobbying to be removed from the list, saying it has cleaned up its act. But it's unclear whether the outfit will be able to shake off its past.

 

Australian Federal MPs who support the group, including Labor Senator Claire Moore, and Nationals Senator John Williams, hope this country will follow suit.

 

"I think it's worth giving them a go," Senator Williams said.

 

"Are they a threat to our society if they come here, are they a threat to the rest of the world?" he asked. "A lot of countries have delisted them, saying they aren't."

 

Co-Secretary of Australian Supporters of Democracy in Iran, Peter Murphy, isn't surprised the US delisted the MEK, calling the group "a peaceful, democratic, constitutionalist force for change".

 

But University of NSW Middle East expert Dr Anthony John Billingsley claims that's a fantasy.

 

"It's a dark illusion and a shameful demonstration of the power of lobbyists," Dr Billingsley told AAP. "I wouldn't call them a force for democracy in Iran, quite the opposite."

 

The NSW expert said: "They're a group of weird, quite nasty terrorists, guilty of killing a fairly large number of Iranians including leading members of the government, but also a large number of Americans and other westerners as well."

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told AAP the MEK was listed as a terrorist group in 2001 because it satisfied, on reasonable grounds, the definition that it was either "a person who commits, or attempts to commit, terrorist acts or participates in or facilitates the commission of terrorist acts; an entity owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such persons; or a person or an entity acting on behalf of, or at the direction of such persons and entities."

In 1992, about 15 MEK members trashed the Iranian embassy in Australia and assaulted staff, an event filmed by an SBS camera crew which had been tipped off by local MEK supporters.

 

Dr Billingsley insists any portrayal of the MEK as a peaceful organization is flawed.

 

"Some people think the MEK isn't so nasty after all", he said, because "they're blowing up our enemies rather than us".

 

"The fact is they're killing civilians," he said. "It's terrorism by any definition."

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