French Police Seize 158 Iranians in Raid on `Terror Group' Opposition Group Members of Raid Base of Iranian Opposition Group

By Lichfield, John | The Independent (London, England), June 18, 2003 | Go to article overview
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French Police Seize 158 Iranians in Raid on `Terror Group' Opposition Group Members of Raid Base of Iranian Opposition Group


Lichfield, John, The Independent (London, England)


HEAVILY ARMED French police have rounded up 158 members of an Iranian armed opposition group, the People's Mujahedin, in the most spectacular raids of their kind for more than 30 years.

More than 1,000 police officers smashed their way into a large private compound in Auvers-sur-Oise, north-west of Paris, yesterday and arrested, among others, Maryam Rajavi, the public face of the group and wife of the shadowy Mujahedin leader, Massoud Rajavi.

The detainees also included Saleh Rajavi, Massoud Rajavi's brother, who is head of the group in France. The Interior Ministry said the suspects were being investigated for "preparing acts of terrorism and for financing a terrorist enterprise".

The Mujahedin, who also call themselves the National Iranian Resistance Council, are listed by the EU and the United States as a terrorist organisation. They have, none the less, been allowed to operate with relative freedom in France, Britain and the US for more than 20 years.

The timing of the raids suggests an attempt by France to remove a source of Western friction with Iran while Tehran is under pressure from both the US and EU to co-operate with the international community on its nuclear arms programme. Whether the US will appreciate such a gesture by France is uncertain.

A spokesman in London for the Mujahedin, a sect-like organisation which claims to be both Islamist and Marxist, accused France of trying to "curry favour" with what he called the "terrorist" regime in Tehran.

"It is a [French] political gesture to Tehran ... and a cold shower for the Americans," said an independent Iranian political analyst, Daryouch Abdali.

French officials said the raids had nothing to do either with the nuclear stand-off with Iran or the recent riots by young people in Tehran and other Iranian cities.

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