December 18, 2017

Notable Germans urge protection for Iranian exiles


By ROBERT H. REID Associated Press

BERLIN – Several prominent Germans urged the U.S. and Europe on Wednesday to speed the resettlement of about 3,100 members of an Iranian opposition group living in Iraq whose lives are said to be at risk.

The call was made at a conference in Berlin of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, whose militant wing is housed at Camp Liberty, a former U.S. base near Baghdad International Airport.

A rocket attack on the Baghdad camp in February killed at least seven members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which was allied for years with the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The barrage was claimed by a pro-Iranian Shiite extremist group, which promised more attacks.

MEK agreed to move to the Baghdad camp from a longtime base near Iraq’s border with Iran last year pending the group’s resettlement abroad. But the process has stalled because countries are reluctant to accept all of the group’s members and because of arrest warrants against about 200 of its leaders issued by Iraq and Iran.

Iraq’s leadership considers MEK, which has carried out bombings and assassinations against the Iran’s cleric-dominated government, a terrorist organization and wants its members out of the country.

Horst Teltschik, a former adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, said Germany had taken in thousands of refugees from Syria and other conflict zones, so it could take in MEK members.

“Why do we find this so difficult?” he asked. “It’s a moral duty to take as many of these (people) as possible.”

He also noted about 300 MEK members had German residence permits.

Guenter Verheugen, a former senior official in the Foreign Ministry and a former European Union commissioner, said governments are reluctant to press the resettlement issue or put pressure on Iraq for fear of endangering their relationships with Iran.

“Yes, these people may be a nuisance, but they must not be sentenced to death,” he said. “It is not a crime to be a nuisance.”