EU’s Ashton fears for safety of Iran dissidents

EU’s Ashton fears for safety of Iran dissidents

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton  (AFP Photo)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
(AFP Photo)

AFP- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has warned of the “significant risk” that seven Iranian dissidents held in Iraq could be sent to Tehran and has called for their immediate release.

“We have reason to believe that up to seven camp residents are being held in captivity near Baghdad, and that there is a significant risk that they could be sent to Iran,” Ashton said in a letter seen by AFP that was sent on 19 September to European MP Alejo Vidal Quadras.

“I fully share your concerns about the fate of these individuals,” she wrote, adding that she had raised the issue with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and asked for their release.

The seven Iranian exiles, members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), disappeared during the 1 September violence in Camp Ashraf, Northeast of Baghdad, that left 52 people dead.

The PMOI charges that special Iraqi security forces that answer to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were behind the slaughter. Iraqi authorities have blamed infighting within the PMOI for the deaths.

The group’s leader, Maryam Radjavi, says the seven survivors are in Iraqi custody and are at risk of being sent back to Iran, where they could face torture or forced disappearance.

The PMOI was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and later the country’s clerical rulers, and set up camp in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran in the 1980s.

It was disarmed after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and today’s Shia-majority and Tehran-friendly government in Baghdad is eager to see it move elsewhere.

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