FURTHER ON THE [MEK, MKO, PMOI] ARRESTS 19JUN2003
************* FROM AMEMBASSY PARIS TO SECSTATE WASHDC -- UNCLASSIFIED -- RELEASED IN PART -- Classified By: Political Minister Counselor
(NOTES) Yves Bonnet, the former director of France's counter-espionage agency, DST, who was also a member of parliament and the prefect of a department, said in a speech to Iranian demonstrators in Brussels cm 13 May 2002:
- (U) The June 17 roundup by French authorities of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) has continued to provoke speculation as to the timing and motivation for the French action. Press commentary has ranged from conjecture that the move was an effort to curry favor with Tehran, to supposition that it was an attempt to rebuild ties with Washington. One article in the popular right-of-center France Soir observed that France was attempting to do both at the same time.
- (U) In an almost unheard of press interview June 18, Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST -- France's principal counterterrorist agency) chief Pierre de Bousquet de Florian presented the official case for rolling up the MEK. Bousquet de Florian stated that the MEK of 2003 was no longer the MEK of 1981 (the date of its initial presence in France), emphasizing that there could be absolutely no doubt about the terrorist nature of the organization, which "functioned just like a cult." Bousquet de Florian said even before the Iraq war, the French had observed increased MEK activity in France, with the arrival in early 2003 of Maryam Radjavi, co-leader and wife of MEK founder Massoud Radjavi, and other senior cadre at the group's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Auvers-sur-Oise.
- (U) Insisting that the MEK had been under French scrutiny for some time, the DST Director said the investigation had only recently reached "maturation." French intelligence indicated that the MEK intended, after the loss of its Iraq sanctuaries, to transform its base in France into its new "international operations center." Bousquet de Florian said the French had also determined that the MEK planned to conduct actions outside of Iran, including attacks against Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe. He denied, however, that Iran had furnished any "technical collaboration" to the French during their investigation. An MFA spokesman subsequently noted June 19 that France did not intend to respond to a request by President Khatami to extradite MEK members to Iran. (Note: One account in the widely read Figaro, citing a source close to the inquiry, linked the French action to the arrest of several MEK members in Australia suspected of planning terrorist attacks against Iranian interests in that country.)
- (U) In an interview with the June 19 late afternoon edition of Le Monde, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin justifed the arrests by stating that: "In a period of strong agitation among international terrorist networks, it is in our national interest to ensure the dismantlement of any structure that could be involved in welcoming terrorists on our territory." He noted that the action had occurred as the result of an order issued by an anti-terrorism magistrate against a group that had been designated by the EU as a terrorist organization.
- (SBU) While failing to uncover any arms caches in the raids, French officials reportedly seized up to $10 million in cash, denominated in dollars and euros, and records of assorted suspect financial transactions. The police discovered as well a mini-television studio, 200 satellite dishes and indications that the MEK was employing encrypted software. The French success reflected careful planning.
- (U) As of June 19, all but 22 of the 163 MEK members arrested in the June 17 raids had been freed. Maryam Radjavi and her brother-in-law Saleh Radjavi, however, remain in custody. MEK members and sympathizers rapidly mobilized to protest her arrest, with three demonstrators immolating themselves June 18 in front of the Paris headquarters of the DST. (We note that MEK protestors have also set fire or attempted to set fire to themselves in front of the French Embassies in London and Bern.) Paris Police Prefect Jean-Paul Proust quickly moved that same evening to ban "until further notice" demonstrations by the MEK, or any other Iranian group, later announcing June 19 the prohibition of the "sale, transport or utilization of very inflammable products in certain neighborhoods in the center of the capital." A protective police cordon has also been reinforced around the DST headquarters near the Eiffel Tower.
I have been battling against terrorism for years; terrorism that was nothing but violent destruction and eradication. In other words, terrorism meant involvement in a violent act, to the point of death and terrorism with the objective of making other countries unstable ... A terrorist movement and organization could be defined with two criteria: first they want to terrorize and for that reason they target ordinary citizens. The second criterion of a terrorist movement is that it wants to destabilize regimes. Neither of these two criteria permits one to describe the People's Mojahedin as a terrorist movement.
The only targets of the PMOI have been the military and security infrastructure of the ruling regime in Iran. No one has been able in show, no one has even been able to imagine that the People's Mojahedin would resort to violent acts outside Iran or would perpetrate operations against civilians. They simply have not done so. Even within the territory of a country as large as Iran, I could say that the People's Mojahedin has been engaged in terrorizing the ruling terrorists.
In an interview with the daily Le Parisien on 18 June 2003, a day after the French police raid on the office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in France, Bonnet said:
I know the Iranian resistance very well. I even visited their camps in Iraq when I was a member of the French Parliament. Describing them as terrorists has been rejected by dozens of U.S. senators and French parliamentarians ... A terrorist organization is an organization that carries out violent acts against civilians within a country or against people outside that country. A movement that acts solely against the government apparatus within a country could not be described as terrorist, otherwise one has to eliminate the word resistance from lexicons.
We must also bear in mind the nature of the Iranian regime, which is one of the most repressive and fanatical regimes of its kind. All legislative, executive and judicial powers are under the control of the supreme leader.