Iran opposition group calls for regime change in Paris march

Source: Iran opposition group calls for rime change in Paris march | The Times of Israel

Thousands attend annual rally held by People’s Mujahedeen, months after European authorities thwarted alleged Tehran-backed plot to bomb event

People wave former Iranian flags and a picture of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition to protest against the Iranian government on February 8, 2019 in Paris. (AFP)

People wave former Iranian flags and a picture of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition to protest against the Iranian government on February 8, 2019 in Paris. (AFP)

PARIS — Several thousand supporters of an exiled Iranian opposition group marched through Paris on Friday, calling for an end to Iran’s clerical regime 40 years after the Islamic Revolution toppled Iran’s monarchy.

The People’s Mujahedeen (MEK) were joined at the rally by an array of speakers before the march, from former and current French politicians to a one-time Algerian prime minister and a Syrian opposition figure.

Crowds waved posters of group leader Maryam Rajavi and founder Massoud Rajavi — not seen since 2003 in Iraq, where the MEK once had a camp and waged war against Iran before being disarmed by invading US troops.

The group bases its headquarters outside Paris with several thousand members in Albania, extracted in a UN-brokered effort from Iraq. Supporters are scattered elsewhere in the West as part of the Iranian diaspora.

Security was tight during the rally and march through Paris’ Left Bank. The group’s annual rally last year was the target of an alleged Iranian government bomb plot, which was thwarted by arrests.

A picture shows a portrait of an Iranian and flowers placed on a gallows, during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition to protest against the Iranian government on February 8, 2019 in Paris. (Alain JOCARD / AFP)

Belgium announced last July that it had arrested a couple of Iranian origin in a Brussels suburb who were suspected of preparing to drive a car packed with explosives to the French rally. But a total of six people, including an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna, were later detained in coordinated raids by European police.

Israel’s Hadashot news reported at the time that intelligence provided by the Mossad spy agency led to the arrests of the Iranian suspects.

French authorities accused Iran’s intelligence ministry of orchestrating the bombing, but Tehran firmly denied any involvement, and claimed the MEK orchestrated the plot to discredit Tehran as it sought to salvage the nuclear deal with European signatories.

“As long as we’re dealing with the main state sponsor of terrorism, there is a concern … But that will never stop us,” MEK spokesman Shahin Gobadi said. The MEK hones to US President Donald Trump’s hard line on Iran, and supports US sanctions on Iran.

People hold pictures of relatives killed by the Iranian regime during the ‘Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative’ event on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Six people were arrested in Belgium, Germany and France for an alleged plot to attack the rally, including an Iranian diplomat and his wife. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

One of the speakers at Friday’s rally, former French senator Jean-Pierre Michel, said in an interview that “I’m not a fanatic of Mr. Trump … but I think the United States is right about Iran.” He chastised Europeans for what he views as their softer approach to Tehran.

Michel, 80, is a long-time supporter of the MEK, which has drawn around it numerous US and European parliamentarians and former officials who disagree with critics’ portrayal of the organization as cult-like.

He praised MEK for having a woman at its head who says she wants democracy and separation of church and state in a future Iran, and he hopes one day to visit Tehran with Rajavi, saying, “It keeps me alive.”

 

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