Washington backed Mojahedin Khalq will be removed from Americans terror list after evecuation of Camp New Iraq, Formerly Ashraf - aka; MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult
Washington backed Mojahedin Khalq will be
removed from Americans terror list after
evecuation of Camp New Iraq, Formerly Ashraf
(aka; MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult)
... Clinton plans to decide on the group's request to be delisted from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list "no later than 60 days after the last move," Robert Loeb, a Justice Department lawyer representing the administration, told the appeals court that heard oral arguments on the issue.It appeared to be the first time that the State Department had publicly given a rough timeline for making a decision on the matter.Loeb acknowledged that a 60-day period for a decision "may not be realistic" because they could find additional evidence that needs to be weighed, but that Clinton had authorized him ...
U.S. to decide Iranian group's fate after camp closes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to rule on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from a U.S. terrorism blacklist about two months after its refugee camp in Iraq closes, the Obama administration said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments on a petition from the group, Mujahadin-e Khalq, or MEK, which is seeking an order forcing the State Department to either remove it from the list or require action within a specified period on its request to be delisted.
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, and the remaining 1,200 or so are expected to be moved in the next nine weeks or so, the administration said.
Clinton plans to decide on the group's request to be delisted from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list "no later than 60 days after the last move," Robert Loeb, a Justice Department lawyer representing the administration, told the appeals court that heard oral arguments on the issue.
It appeared to be the first time that the State Department had publicly given a rough timeline for making a decision on the matter.
Loeb acknowledged that a 60-day period for a decision "may not be realistic" because they could find additional evidence that needs to be weighed, but that Clinton had authorized him to tell the court of her plan.
Loeb said the administration has been carefully weighing whether the group has fully renounced its violent past and given up any weapons. He denied that the process was without an end. Clinton said in February the camp move was a "key factor" to making a decision.
"We're not citing world peace" as a goal to determine the fate of the designation, Loeb said.
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.
UNWELCOME IN IRAQ
The group, which has pushed for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders, found itself no longer welcome in Iraq under its new Shi'ite-led government that came to power after Saddam Hussein's downfall in 2003.
As a result of the MEK's listing as a foreign terrorist organization, Americans are barred from supporting the group, and its members or representatives are banned from entering the United States.
A lawyer for the group, Viet Dinh, pressed a three-judge appeals court panel to force the Obama administration's hand and said that the terrorism designation has "severe implications on constitutional liberties" for the group.
He denied that the MEK members at the base were armed and saying that "the group for a decade has renounced violence."
The three judges appeared skeptical of both sides during the arguments, acknowledging that it was not as if the Obama administration was "sitting on their hands", as Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson put it during the nearly hour-long arguments.
Judge David Tatel raised the possibility of establishing a deadline for when Clinton must rule or take the Obama administration's backup suggestion to require regular progress reports to the court.
But he questioned whether the group wanted a decision that could go against the group now but in a few weeks or months could be reversed.
Dinh argued that the law required Clinton to make a decision within short order and that the group wanted a decision made even if it was not to delist it because then it could appeal it in the courts. "Any decision would be better," he said.
Tatel also pressed Loeb on why the administration just did not deny the application so the appeals process could move, but the lawyer said that the situation was "fluid" and did not want to risk hurting cooperation to close Camp Ashraf.
Congressional Leaders Voice Support for Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) Violence
... But Rohrabacher was adamant in his support for MEK. “I will have to admit the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight," he responded. “It won’t just be pacifists," Rohrabacher said, referring dismissively to the Green Movement, "it will be people with courage and people who stand up.” Mukasey, in addition to calling for the MEK to be removed from the terrorism list, urged that MEK members be allowed to resettle in the United States. Mukasey acknowledged that members of terrorist organizations are legally barred from entering the U.S., and suggested legislation be introduced to change the law for MEK members ...
Ali Safavi, a senior member of the MEK's political wing, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), coached witnesses before and during the hearing. The NCRI is designated as a terrorist affiliate of the MEK.
Washington, DC - Congressional supporters of the drive to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. terrorism list defended the organization’s use of violence while dismissing Iran’s nonviolent Green Movement at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week. The hearing was also remarkable in that senior leaders of the designated foreign terrorist organization were caught counseling some of the witnesses before the hearing. It is illegal to coordinate with a foreign terrorist organization to advocate on behalf of the terrorist group.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, compared the use of terrorism by MEK to violence employed during the American Revolutionary War. He justified the “cult-like” behavior of the MEK, saying American revolutionaries included "religious fanatics and Christian cults.”
Alireza Jafarzadeh, who has served as NCRI spokesman, counseled former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey prior to his testimony
Rohrabacher called for the MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which prevents the group from receiving government funding and makes it illegal for MEK to operate in the U.S. "Any group that chooses to use violence to resist doesn’t make them right or wrong,” Rohrabacher stated. “Backing people who fight against tyranny is also something the U.S. should be doing.”
Despite the terrorist listing, Ali Safavi, a senior member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was at the hearing, where he openly counseled witnesses before and during their testimony. The NCRI is the MEK’s political wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The hearing’s witnesses included three former U.S. officials who have actively participated in pro-MEK conferences, including former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
All three witnesses who previously appeared at MEK conferences unanimously called for the MEK to be removed from the terror list, though none were asked to disclose whether they had received money to support the organization, as have other officials who have advocated for delisting the group.
The lone dissenting voice among the witnesses, former Obama Administration advisor Ray Takeyh, was subjected to an intense back and forth with Representatives on the panel.
Takeyh warned panelists who viewed MEK as a viable alternative to the Iranian regime that the organization has no support in Iran.
“I don’t agree," responded Representative Bob Filner (D-CA). "Even if you’re right, so what?”
Filner laughed off evidence that MEK President Maryam Rajavi is a cult leader, despite reports from the State Department and FBI of “cult-like” practices by MEK that include indoctrination rituals and torture. "She is as intelligent, humorous, humane and humble as anyone I’ve ever met," Filner observed, recounting what he said have been numerous meetings he has held in Paris with Rajavi.
Filner accused Takeyh of justifying violence against the MEK by highlighting the group's history of terrorism, and said the U.S. should be supporting the organization as a “third way” alternative in Iran because it opposes the Iranian regime.
“These are our friends! We should be getting out of their way and de-list them,” Filner exclaimed. “Let them do what they can! Why are we helping Iran by not helping the MEK?”
Rohrabacher defended the MEK's history of violence, saying, “This is a territory that’s filled with violence—I would be surprised if there wasn’t any organization that wasn’t in some way involved with using force to protect themselves.”
"Oh I would disagree with that," responded Takeyh. "Within Iran there are many opposition movements, such as the Green Movement, that explicitly reject violence.”
But Rohrabacher was adamant in his support for MEK. “I will have to admit the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight," he responded. “It won’t just be pacifists," Rohrabacher said, referring dismissively to the Green Movement, "it will be people with courage and people who stand up.”
Mukasey, in addition to calling for the MEK to be removed from the terrorism list, urged that MEK members be allowed to resettle in the United States. Mukasey acknowledged that members of terrorist organizations are legally barred from entering the U.S., and suggested legislation be introduced to change the law for MEK members.
Prior to the hearing, Mukasey was witnessed receiving coaching from Alireza Jafarzadeh, who served as the official spokesman for the NCRI before it was declared a terrorist group and its offices raided by the FBI in 2003.
Meanwhile, many were turned away from the hearing or sent to the overflow room to watch the proceedings because the hearing room was at capacity. It was filled with individuals in yellow jerseys emblazoned with the slogans, “De-list the MEK,” “Protect Ashraf,” and “Ramp up sanctions.”
RT: Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money
(aka; Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
... The Alyona Show on RT – Russian English –Language news Channel suggests the US media focus on the “Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money”, on July 9th. The show criticizes US officials’ hypocrisy and double-standard sell the cause of terrorists. Comparing MEK with Al-Qaida the show poses the question that how a terrorist designated organization can be debated in a hearing held in the US congress ...
The Alyona Show on RT – Russian English –Language news Channel suggests the US media focus on the “Lobbyist in Capital Hill with pockets stuffed with MEK’s money”, on July 9th. The show criticizes US officials’ hypocrisy and double-standard sell the cause of terrorists. Comparing MEK with Al-Qaida the show poses the question that how a terrorist designated organization can be debated in a hearing held in the US congress.
... the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation. Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK ...
In November 2011 a large group of interested people met in Baghdad to discuss the seemingly intractable problem of how to dismantle the Mohjahedin-e Khalq foreign terrorist group and remove the members from the country. At the behest of families of the individuals trapped inside Camp Ashraf, the GOI agreed to proceed in a way that would avoid violent confrontation. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced later, “We will refuse them the satisfaction of becoming martyrs on our soil”. The Governor of Diyala, the military head of Diyala province and other authorities all went the extra mile to prevent the MEK from killing more hostages and blaming the Iraqis for it.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN which would allow more time and give oversight of the eviction process to the UN and to representatives of the EU and US.
The Iraqis have kept their side of bargain – the deadline for the MEK’s departure was extended and negotiations were facilitated to persuade the MEK to cooperate in a move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty where the UNHCR would be able to assess each individual for refugee status. (Remember that no external body, including the GOI, has been able to freely access the inside of Camp Ashraf since the fall of Saddam Hussein.) The first 800 individuals have now moved and another 800 are lined up to move over the next few days in two groups of 400. The MEK leader has not been able to exploit the situation and kill any hostages. The GOI has control of the situation.
UNAMI has been rigorous in its supervision of the move and, by enforcing its own rules and regulations has not allowed propaganda to overshadow activities at either camp. Facilities at the new camp were approved by UN inspectors, the ICRC has been involved and behind the scene EU and US special advisors have been keeping a watchful eye on events. The MEK has ‘character assassinated’ UNAMI and its officials, and others, in the media but UNAMI has not been diverted by the efforts of the MEK and their backers.
But one pernicious factor which has actively impeded proper progress in this task has been the support given to the MEK by Israelis and US Neoconservatives whose clear intent is to politicise what is essentially a humanitarian situation. The MEK is a well-honed tool in the hands of these ideologues and is used to incite hatred against Iran and Iraq among ignorant and lazy political communities. The MEK is far too valuable for them to allow it to disappear. Most recently, the MEK has been used by Mossad to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
This being so will make it even more difficult for UNAMI to transfer them to third countries. This ruthless use of the MEK as a mercenary terrorist force has a direct impact on the situation of the hostages trapped in the camp; their future becomes all the more uncertain.
But then, it has been all along, the clear intention of the MEK’s paymasters to keep the MEK intact as a terrorist entity in Iraq, in total disregard for the human beings involved.
If it wasn’t because of the backing of Israel and the Neoconservatives, Rajavi would have had no choice but to open the doors of his closed totalitarian group and allow the individuals trapped inside to walk free. That is the aim of everyone on the ground working to resolve the situation in Iraq. In this respect it is no less the responsibility of the US Government to work with the international community to dismantle this terrorist group and rescue the hostages.
But while the rest of the world is genuinely working toward a peaceful end to the camp and the release and resettlement of the hostages, it appears Secretary of State Clinton is somewhat ambiguous in her dealing with the situation.
Based on a legal ruling, Clinton must make a decision by the end of March whether the State Department remove the MEK from its terrorism list or not. Presenting this as leverage she has introduced a unilateral condition to the MEK’s removal from Iraq; if the MEK cooperate with UNAMI and the Government of Iraq, she has indicated, we will remove them from the US terrorism list. But cooperation with UNAMI is a legal obligation rather than an optional choice for the MEK. So what is really behind this position?
On the surface this would appear as though the USG is prepared to do a political deal to get the MEK to leave Iraq (and in doing so gain credit with the Iraqi government). It is as though the MEK were a far distant uncontrollable threat to US security which needs careful handling to bring it under control before dismantling it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that the MEK’s western owners can do is being done to help the MEK’s leader keep the doors to the camp closed, to keep the hostages inside and to deny them contact with their families – even though this is against all humanitarian, moral or indeed criminal law.
By talking about the terrorism list rather than talking about what is happening in Iraq Clinton is bowing to this pressure. Certainly if UNAMI is allowed to do its job properly – with the support of all the international community – there will not be an organisation left to be listed or not listed. By invoking the US terrorism list, the actual script appears to be whether the MEK can be more useful listed as terrorists or if they are not regarded as terrorists. This false choice disguises the real intent of its proponents which is to keep the group intact as a terrorist group so it can be rearmed and used.
Secretary Clinton, indeed the whole government of America, needs to unhitch the politically charged consideration of the MEK’s inclusion in the US terrorism list from the very real humanitarian situation in Iraq. If the USG’s intention is really to deal properly with this terrorist group, it should reassert the humanitarian focus of American policy toward the MEK and unequivocally support the dismantlement process in Iraq.
... Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding ...
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
It was the ad-hoc training that provoked the worried telephone calls to him, the former general said. “I told one of the guys who called me that they were all in over their heads, and all of them could end up trouble unless they got something in writing. The Iranians are very, very good at counterintelligence, and stuff like this is just too hard to contain.” The site in Nevada was being utilized at the same time, he said, for advanced training of élite Iraqi combat units. (The retired general said he only knew of the one M.E.K.-affiliated group that went though the training course; the former senior intelligence official said that he was aware of training that went on through 2007.)
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who is fluent in Arabic and had worked under cover in Kurdistan and throughout the Middle East in his career, initially had told me in early 2004 of being recruited by a private American company—working, so he believed, on behalf of the Bush Administration—to return to Iraq. “They wanted me to help the M.E.K. collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program,” Baer recalled. “They thought I knew Farsi, which I did not. I said I’d get back to them, but never did.” Baer, now living in California, recalled that it was made clear to him at the time that the operation was “a long-term thing—not just a one-shot deal.”
Massoud Khodabandeh, an I.T. expert now living in England who consults for the Iraqi government, was an official with the M.E.K. before defecting in 1996. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that he is an avowed enemy of the M.E.K., and has advocated against the group. Khodabandeh said that he had been with the group since before the fall of the Shah and, as a computer expert, was deeply involved in intelligence activities as well as providing security for the M.E.K. leadership. For the past decade, he and his English wife have run a support program for other defectors. Khodabandeh told me that he had heard from more recent defectors about the training in Nevada. He was told that the communications training in Nevada involved more than teaching how to keep in contact during attacks—it also involved communication intercepts. The United States, he said, at one point found a way to penetrate some major Iranian communications systems. At the time, he said, the U.S. provided M.E.K. operatives with the ability to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran—which M.E.K. operatives translated and shared with American signals intelligence experts. He does not know whether this activity is ongoing.
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but early last month NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. NBC further quoted the Administration officials as denying any American involvement in the M.E.K. activities. The former senior intelligence official I spoke with seconded the NBC report that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence. He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.” Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.” An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations than it never had before.”
In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”
... Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany. His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq. He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw. He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years. He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way. He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says ...
How do you get a group described by the US government as a cult and an officially designated foreign terrorist organisation to be viewed by many congressmen and parliamentarians as champions of human rights and secular democracy?
It would challenge even the most talented PR executive.
The starkly differing perceptions of the MEK or People's Mujahideen of Iran could be a case study in the power of image management - of what can be achieved not with guns but by the way information is disseminated.
The organisation has a history of ideological and tactical flexibility.
Since the 1970s, its rhetoric has changed from Islamist to secular; from socialist to capitalist; from pro-Iranian-revolution to anti-Iranian-revolution; from pro-Saddam to pro-American; from violent to peaceful.
And there is another dichotomy - it has admiring supporters and ardent critics.
Take, for example, the US military officers who had to deal with the MEK after they invaded Iraq in 2003.
Not only was the MEK heavily armed and designated as terrorist by the US government, it also had some very striking internal social policies.
For example, it required its members in Iraq to divorce. Why? Because love was distracting them from their struggle against the mullahs in Iran.
And the trouble is that people love their children too.
So the MEK leadership asked its members to send their children away to foster families in Europe. Europe would be safer, the group explained.
Some parents have not seen their children for 20 years and more.
And just to add to the mix, former members consistently describe participating in regular public confessions of their sexual fantasies.
You might think that would set alarm bells ringing - and for some US officers it did.
One colonel I spoke to, who had daily contact with the MEK leadership for six months in 2004, said that the organisation was a cult, and that some of the members who wanted to get out had to run away.
And yet another officer, who was there at precisely the same time and is now a retired general, has become an active lobbyist on the MEK's behalf.
With his open smile and earnest friendly manner, he is a good advocate. "Cult? How about admirably focused group?" he says. "And I never heard of anyone being held against their will."
We later emailed him about a former member who claimed to have told the general to his face that people were held against their will. "He's lying," the general replied.
You just have to decide which side to believe.
Ex-MEK member Eduard Termado is now living in Germany.
His face is scarred to the point of being misshapen. His complexion is grey, his skin blotched and waxy, and his forehead constantly covered in dribbling beads of sweat - but then he spent nine years as a prisoner of war in Iraq.
He joined the MEK hoping to help Iranian democracy and did not like what he saw.
He says that after three years he asked to leave, but was told he couldn't. He stayed for 12 years.
He now says joining the MEK was the biggest mistake of his life and he has expressed that feeling in an unusual way.
He has married and produced three children. "My family is my protest against the MEK," he says.
There are many other stories.
Children who never forgave their parents for abandoning them. Children who did forgive and are now joyously reunited. Divorcees who have got out of the organisation saying they still love their former spouses who are still in.
In over 25 years of reporting, I have been lied to often enough but, as successive former MEK members told what they had been through, their tears seemed real enough to me.
And yet a significant number of politicians in the US and UK would say I was tricked because the former MEK members who spread these kind of stories are, in fact, Iranian agents.
There are more than 30 big names - people like Rudy Giuliani former mayor of New York, Howard Dean at one time the democratic presidential hopeful, a retired governor, a former head of the FBI.
Many get paid. Of those who have declared their earnings, the going rate for a pro-MEK speech seems to be $20,000 (£12,500) for 10 minutes. But then many other prominent MEK supporters act without payment.
Why do people take such strong positions on the MEK?
After a month talking to people on both sides of the argument, I am left thinking this. Some supporters are paid, others see the MEK through the prism of Iran - they will just support anything that offers hope of change there. Many are well motivated but some are naive.
And the former members?
Some are embittered, others just seem broken.
Which is when it occurred to me - the perception people have of the MEK may say more about them than about the organisation itself.
It is so difficult to pin down you can see your own reflection in it.
How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:
BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST.
Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only).
... Whether they leave voluntarily, or by force, leave they must. The PMOI has a history of killing Americans and mounting attacks within Iran. But it now says it has renounced violence and should be removed from America's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. Its high profile PR campaign involves paying senior retired US officials who then speak on its behalf. We report on the way in which a former pariah group accused of killing Americans has won over intelligence experts, generals, and congressmen from both sides of the political divide...
Martin Kobler (U.N.), Daniel Fried (U.S.) discuss Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty in European Parliament
(Remains of Mojahedin Khalq, MKO,MEK, in Iraq)
... On Wednesday, 21/03/2012 Martin Kobler, the UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nation Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), reported to the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the work of the UNHCR and UNAMI in Iraq and the current situation of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty. As part of his description of the problems of resettlement of the Ashraf residents Kobler said that it demanded a cooperative attitude from the residents. Also the U.S. special envoy for Camp Ashraf, Daniel Fried, said that the information that the United States has of the situation in Camp Ashraf and Liberty is consistent with Kobler's descriptions. The conditions at Camp Liberty are not nearly as bad as described by the MEK ...