… As Judge Mukasey indicated a moment, ago it’s very important to see the situation of the delisting and the situation at Ashraf as intimately linked. We heard Judge Poe say earlier, talk earlier about his conversation with Prime Minister Maliki at his suggestion that the Congressional delegation to visit Ashraf, which was rejected by the Iraqis. What Judge Poe did not tell you is that informing the Congressional delegation that they were not permitted to go to Ashraf, Prime Minister Maliki was quoted in the press as having said, this is a terrorist organization. You wouldn’t let foreigners visit a terrorist organization in your country, would you?
A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”
Below is an excerpt of the speech by Hon. Steven Schneebaum. Mr. Schneebaum has over 25 years of experience in international and domestic dispute resolution and complex litigation. His civil litigation experience includes bench and jury trials in state and federal courts. In addition, he has argued before 10 of the 13 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the highest courts of five States. He has represented foreign sovereigns as well as foreign and domestic corporations in courts throughout the United States. Mr. Schneebaum is a professorial lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington. As counsel for the U.S. families of Camp Ashraf residents, Mr. Schneebaum travelled to Camp Ashraf twice, the most recent in August 2008.
Thank you Senator, and before I begin my remarks which could be subtitled and now a word from our lawyer. Since I am the last speaker I think it would be appropriate for me to indicate what a tremendous supporter of the PMOI of Camp Ashraf we have had in Senator Bob Torricelli who deserves all of our thanks.
We’re asked to do two things in my remarks today. One to provide some legal context for some of what you’ve been hearing this morning and the second is to update you on the state of play with respect to both the petition for delisting and also the condition of the good people at Camp Ashraf.
With respect to the petition, the matter is fairly clear. For those of you unfamiliar with the chronology. We filed our petition to delist the PMOI in the summer of 2008. The statute framework gives the Department of State 180 days to come up with a decision to decide on the petition.
This was the first petition, I should tell you, the first petition ever submitted by an organization to be removed from the terrorist organization list.
Well, the Department did, in fact, respond in 180 days. In fact, I think they beat the deadline by two or three days. In January of 2009 right before the Bush Administration went out of office Secretary Rice issued an opinion denying our petition, but at the same time recommending that her decision be revisited within two years.
The decision was based entirely on classified information that we as counsel to the PMOI were not even permitted to see much less to rebut. This was something right out of an old movie about the Soviet Union, and so we petitioned to, as the statute permits, to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and having briefing an oral agreement the Court reversed the decision of the secretary and remanded the petition to her, now to the new administration, to revisit the conclusions after having given the PMOI due process of law.
Due process of law has at least some understanding, at least some exposure to the information on the basis of which the department was apparently ready to conclude that PMOI remains a terrorist organization.
I should tell you there’s been much discussion about the term terrorist and the term terrorist activity are defined by law. This is not some vague sense of in which the word terrorism is short for we don’t like you or we don’t like your politics.
A terrorist organization is an organization engaged in such things as assassinations, bombings, hostage taking, occupation of public spaces. This sort of thing. Violence in short. And there has been no allegation much less proof of any such undertaking on the part of the PMOI since 2001 at the very latest, over ten years ago.
Well, the Department again after were submitted our position petition at the end of 2010, the Department again reviewed its records and provided to us redacted versions of the classified material on which it purports to rely.
And as you heard earlier this morning the information upon which they are purporting to no rely is simply silly. There is no way of dignifying what we have been shown.
I’ll give you an example. There was apparently an aborted hijacking of an Iranian aircraft which took place about a year-and-a half ago. The perpetrator was obviously someone who was mentally unbalanced and did not get away with the hijacking. When he was taken off have the plane, the immediate report was that this was a mentally ill individual who was acting out some kind of fantasy.
A day or two later an Iranian regime spokesman attributed the hijacking go PMOI. There was never any indication that individual ever having heard of the PMOI, and indeed the allegation didn’t stick. It wasn’t repeated even by the Iranian regime. Yet that document somehow found its way into the set of materials upon which the State Department now purports to base its opinion.
I’m not going to suggest that the State Department has found that document to be persuasive, but the mere fact that it’s included tells us the extent to which the bottom of the barrel is being scraped.
As Judge Mukasey indicated a moment, ago it’s very important to see the situation of the delisting and the situation at Ashraf as intimately linked. We heard Judge Poe say earlier, talk earlier about his conversation with Prime Minister Maliki at his suggestion that the Congressional delegation to visit Ashraf, which was rejected by the Iraqis. What Judge Poe did not tell you is that informing the Congressional delegation that they were not permitted to go to Ashraf, Prime Minister Maliki was quoted in the press as having said, this is a terrorist organization. You wouldn’t let foreigners visit a terrorist organization in your country, would you?
In other words, Prime Minister Maliki was indicating explicitly that he finds support for the people of Ashraf in the designation here in Washington of PMOI as a foreign terrorist organization. And I suspect that that is precisely the same justification that sustains Ambassador Lawrence Bulter who was quote extensively in this weekend’s, on Saturday’s New York Times as having repeated virtually every cliche, virtually every lie, virtually every old story about the PMOI that any of us have ever heard. Stories going back to the 1970s. Stories suggesting that PMOI is a Marxist organization. Stories suggesting that the intelligence provided by the People’s Mojahedin Organization intelligence referred to favorably by no less than the President of the United States in the opinion of Ambassador Butler that that intelligence was rubbish.
In the opinion of Ambassador Butler the supporters of the PMOI such as Judge Mukasey, such as Ambassador Bolton, such as General Wesley Clark and others, all of those people are corrupt. They’ve been bought. Every cliche, every old liable that can be brought out, and that was reported in the New York Times on Saturday.
And if you read that article, as I hope all of us did, you got to be asking yourself among other things, what was the source of this reporter’s information? How did he get this material? He appears to have been at Ashraf when Ambassador Bulter was saying as Judge Mukasey mentioned a moment ago, if you want to talk to the United States you have to come to me. How did he get the story?
I’ll tell you how he got the story. Ambassador Bulter brought this reporter along with him to Ashraf last week and introduced him as a member of his diplomatic designation, a violation of diplomatic ethics, a violation of journalistic ethics, but a demonstration of how some people in the State Department, some people in the Executive Branch of government will stop at nothing in order to carry out the objectives that we have known the Iranian regime to have maintained all of these years, and this is very dangerous.
It is very dangerous for the people of Ashraf because of the message that is being sent is that if Prime Minister Maliki can have his way that the people of Ashraf will not be protected by the United States. They will not be protected by the United Nations. They will be abandoned. That’s very dangerous.
That feeling, that act of violence can be perpetrated at Ashraf with impunity is what led to the invasion of July of 2009. It’s what led to the invasion on April 8th of this year. That has to stop.
And that’s why meetings like this are so important because when the world hears about the support of Ashraf and the concern for Ashraf, not only from the distinguished members of the panel, but of members of the United States Congress, members from both parties, members from across the country, when the world hears that they are tying the support of Ashraf to the fundamental values that underlie this country’s freedom then they — then we all are sending the message to Iraq and to Iran to policymakers in this country that we will not accept this kind of dismissal of these freedom fighters in Iraq.
We will not be content until they are protected, until they are safe, until they are free. Thank you.