The Sunday Telegraph
Christopher Booker's notebook
By Christopher Booker, Sunday Telegraph
Why is the British Government so desirous to appease the regime that is supplying arms and men to kill our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why, at British instigation, is our EU government, flagrantly in breach of EU law, ignoring a judgment of its own supreme court, the European Court of Justice, in a way which has no precedent?
Last week, in a courtroom off London's Chancery Lane, a group of senior politicians, including a former home secretary and a former law lord, attended the first week of hearings by a High Court judge into one of the most baffling scandals of contemporary politics. They were among 35 members of both Houses of Parliament, from all parties, who have appealed to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission against the insistence of the Government that the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) should be banned as a terrorist organisation.
The PMOI is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), supported by millions of Iranians both inside that country and abroad. For 30 years the NCRI has been campaigning for a democratic, secular alternative to the theocratic dictatorship which, more than any anything else, is destabilising the Middle East, from Gaza and Lebanon to Basra and Afghanistan. During that time more than 100,000 of its supporters have been murdered, tortured and mutilated by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and their overseas assassination squads.
In 2001, at the urging of Teheran (as he admitted on the Today programme in February 2006), Jack Straw, as home secretary, placed the PMOI on the UK's list of proscribed terrorist organisations. In 2002 the Foreign Office persuaded the EU to add the PMOI to its own list of outlawed organisations, alongside al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Last December the ECJ's lower court ruled that the inclusion of the PMOI was unlawful. But in January, in an unprecedented breach of European law, a meeting of EU ministers agreed with Britain that the ECJ's ruling should be ignored. Never before has the Council of Ministers (now confusingly calling itself the "Council of the European Union", in distinction from the "European Council") chosen to flout a judgment by its own court.
At the end of June, despite resolutions by the Danish and Italian parliaments and 234 MEPs that the Council should withdraw its ban on the PMOI, EU ministers, again on British insistence, reaffirmed their decision. On July 1 more than 30,000 Iranians staged a peaceful protest in Paris, addressed by Maryam Rajawi, the NCRI's leader, who lives in exile in France, in constant fear of the death squads of the regime our Government wishes to appease.
Last week a QC representing 35 MPs and peers, including Lord Waddington, former Conservative home secretary, Lord Slynn of Hadley, a former law lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Labour solicitor-general and Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, a former advocate general, put forcefully to Mr Justice Ognall that the Government had produced not a shred of convincing evidence that the PMOI is engaged in acts of terrorism, and therefore it should be withdrawn from the list of proscribed organisations.
The ultimate irony of this extraordinary story is that, in recent months, ever more evidence has come to light to show that the organisation genuinely involved in international terrorism, on a vast scale, is the Teheran regime itself. A key role in promoting the insurgency in Iraq is said to be played by the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Iran is the main supplier of arms used against Nato forces in Afghanistan. So why, to put it at its tabloid crudest, is our Government bending over backwards to curry favour with the murderers who want to kill "our boys"?
With every day that passes we travel further into a world George Orwell would have recognised only too well.