BRUSSELS, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deserves admiration for her courageous decision to remove the Iranian opposition movement People's Mujahedin of Iran from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, even though this should have happened years ago.
After 15 years of court hearings and appeals, justice has finally prevailed and the PMOI has been removed from a list it should never have been on in the first place.
The skilled leadership of Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, in this victorious campaign has been a primary factor in its success and there are lessons to be learned.
The presence of the PMOI on the U.S. terrorist list provided the Iranian regime with a perfect weapon to suppress, massacre, torture and execute anyone they suspected of opposing their depraved fascist regime. Simply to belong to or support the PMOI merited the death penalty in the eyes of the mullahs. Many thousands of innocent Iranians met their deaths in this way, with the mullahs always pointing to the U.S. blacklist as their excuse.
Under pressure from Tehran, it was also cited by the government of Iraq as a justification for the murder and oppression of PMOI residents in Camp Ashraf and more recently, the continued harassment and ill-treatment of refugees in Camp Liberty.
The origins of this fateful injustice can, ironically, be traced back to the U.S. presidency of Bill Clinton when, in a vain attempt to appease Tehran, he agreed to their demands to add the PMOI to the U.S. blacklist, despite having no legal justification for doing so.
Tehran feared and loathed the PMOI as the main opposition threat to their corrupt rule and exerted constant pressure on Western governments to crack down on this democratic political movement.
Following their blacklisting in the United States, the United Kingdom and then the European Union were persuaded to follow suit. It took innumerable court battles and the intervention of many prominent political figures from around the world, before first, the United Kingdom and then the European Union finally de-listed the PMOI, leaving only the U.S. State Department as the final stumbling block to righting this grave injustice.
The removal of the PMOI from the U.S. list marks a decisive end to the appeasement policy in respect of Iran. The National Council of Resistance of Iran can now be recognized as the key legitimate opposition to the clerical regime in Tehran.
The United States must in addition assume full responsibility for the safety and security of the remaining Ashraf and Camp Liberty residents. They are the innocent people who were victimized due to the unjust U.S. terrorist label and their full rights as refugees must now be secured by the United States, which must force the Iraqi authorities to end their repression and bullying of these people and co-operate with efforts to resettle these refuges to countries of safety outside Iraq without delay.
The Iraqi government must also be forced to allow the 3,400 PMOI refugees to dispose of their movable and immovable Iraqi assets in Camp Ashraf without hindrance and interference. The days of treating these innocent men and women as proxy terrorists has ended and we in the European Parliament will watch closely to ensure that their new status is recognized and upheld in Iraq.
I personally have worked with the PMOI for more than a decade and know that they are a truly democratic and law-abiding organization with a political manifesto that I would be proud to endorse. They have been maligned and traduced for too long in the West and their removal from the U.S. blacklist will now enable them to resume their primary role of leading the main opposition to the fascist mullah-led regime in Iran.
This is a task for which the world will one day thank the PMOI, while, at the same time, looking back in shame at their dark years of persecution in the European Union and United States.
(Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro Member of Parliament from Scotland. He is president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq. He also is chairman of the "Friends of a Free Iran" intergroup in European Parliament.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)