U.S. told to decide Iranian group's fate in four months

Fri Jun 1, 2012 5:14pm EDT
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By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide within four months whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from a U.S. terrorism list.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled for the group, Mujahadin-e Khalq, or MEK, which has sought to force the State Department to take it off the list or decide within a specified time period on its request to be removed.

The appeals court ordered Clinton to either grant or deny the group's petition in four months. If she fails to take action in that time, it said it would set aside the U.S. government's designation of the group as a foreign terrorist organization.

The appeals court, however, rejected the group's request for a 30-day deadline.

The State Department, which is reviewing the ruling, intends to comply with the opinion, spokesman Mark Toner said in a written response to a question.

In arguments before the appeals court on May 8, an administration lawyer said Clinton planned to rule on the group's request in about two months, after its refugee camp in Iraq closes.

Iranians who belong to the group have been moving out of its Camp Ashraf base in Iraq to a processing center at a former U.S. military base in Baghdad.

Also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the group led a guerrilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s that included attacks on U.S. targets. It was added to the list in 1997, but the group has said that it has renounced violence.   Continued...

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton attends a luncheon organized by the American Chamber of Commerce at Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu