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Federal appeals court orders US to reconsider terror label for Iran opposition group

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday ordered [opinion, PDF] the State Department to reconsider the status of the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) [organization website]. The PMOI has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the US since 1997, but it argues that it stopped military action in 2001 [Washington Post report], and since 2003 has been without weapons. The group has also touted its actions in providing information about Iran's nuclear program. The State Department has argued that the PMOI still engages in military action and that the information it provided about Iran's nuclear program was not reliable. In its decision, the panel took issue with how the State Department provided information to PMOI as to why it continued to be included on a list of foreign terrorist organizations, saying:

The PMOI was notified of the Secretary's decision and permitted access to the unclassified portion of the record only after the decision was final. And even though the PMOI was given the opportunity to include in the record its own evidence supporting delisting, it had no opportunity to rebut the unclassified portion of the record the Secretary was compiling—an omission, the PMOI argues, that deprived it of the due process protections detailed in our previous decisions.
If the PMOI is removed from the State Department's list of terrorist groups, it will be able to raise funds and would not be subject to having its assets frozen by the US. The State Department did not immediately indicate whether it would appeal the ruling.

In 2008, the European Court of First Instance annulled a decision by the EU to place the PMOI on a list of terrorist groups. That decision followed an order by the UK Parliament [JURIST report] to remove the PMOI from a British list of terrorist groups. PMOI is Iran's main political opposition organization and part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) [group website], an umbrella coalition of Iranian opposition groups. The PMOI has been at odds with the Iranian government since it chose to support Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] during the 1980s.

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