French case against Iran opposition group dropped

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PARIS (AP) — French judges have thrown out terrorism-linked charges against nine members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, closing the last part of a case that began 11 years ago with mass arrests that provoked several deaths by protesters setting themselves afire.

The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed Wednesday the case against the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq was closed.

The co-leader of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, Maryam Rajavi said the decision was a "victory of justice and resistance over collaboration" between France and Iran.

Rajavi was among more than 150 detained in a sweep in 2003 around the group's headquarters in Auvers-Sur-Oise, outside Paris. She and 16 others were charged on suspicion of planning terrorist acts and terror financing. Rajavi was later released, and charges against her dropped.

An investigation for "financial infractions" was then opened against nine group members, but those charges were thrown out due to insufficient evidence, according to a statement by seven top lawyers handling the case.

"The justice (system) was manipulated by political and commercial considerations," said William Bourdon, one of the lawyers. "This case never should have existed."

France's counterintelligence chief at the time of the arrests, Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, said the crackdown was aimed at preventing attacks on Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe and elsewhere. He said the Mujahedeen were transforming their compound in Auvers-Sur-Oise into "an operational center for terrorism," after losing firepower in Iraq when the U.S. disarmed them. The group had mounted attacks from a camp in Iraq against neighboring Iran.

The arrest and jailing of Rajavi led to protests by Mujahedeen supporters around Europe, several of whom set themselves afire. Two died and six others were injured.

The lawyers claimed the French government mounted the charges as part of a "strategy of manipulation led by the mullahs in power in Tehran."

The Mujahedeen have been removed from both European and U.S. terror lists.

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