Baghdad – Iraqi authorities on Wednesday freed 36 members of an Iranian opposition group detained during July clashes between Iraqi security forces and members of the group. The detainees were taken into custody during clashes between members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) and Iraqi security forces entering the group’s base at Camp Ashraf in northern Iraq. Seven members of the group died in the clashes.
A spokesman for the group, also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq, said the freed detainees had been beaten in custody and that “most of them were on the verge of death.”
The PMOI was founded in 1965 to oppose the government of the shah. In 1981, after the Iranian revolution, it started an armed campaign against the new government.
Iran and the United States list the PMOI as a terrorist group. Iran blames the group for several high-profile political assassinations.
After the group was expelled from France in 1986, Iraq’s then- president, Saddam Hussein, allocated it a military base near the border with Iran.
Iran has said that before Hussein was ousted, the PMOI frequently infiltrated its territory, leading to clashes and casualties on both sides.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US military disarmed the group and was responsible for protecting it in the face of sectarian violence throughout Iraq. In the summer of 2008, that responsibility was handed over to the Iraqi army.
In Washington, supporters of Camp Ashraf ended a 70-day hunger strike they had been staging outside of the White House, claiming vindication with the release of the 36 prisoners. Their protest began during the clashes in late July.