Two MKO members with a long history of terrorist activities have reportedly been apprehended by the Interpol police in Finland.
Two men were taken into custody upon entering Finland on Sunday, according to Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.
Hadi Roshanravani and Mohammad-Ali Jaberzadeh Ansari are said to be the two who were arrested.
The men have traveled to Finland to pave the way for a visit by Maryam Rajavi, the wife of the founder of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), who is herself a high-ranking member of the terrorist group.
Officials in Helsinki believe the two men do not pose a threat to Finnish national security but are set to decide on whether the country will extradite the criminals to Iran to face trial.
The 62-year-old Hadi Roshanravani is the top MKO operations intelligence official. He had been conducting espionage operations in Iraq and Europe for decades with the support of the last Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
The 60-year-old Mohammad-Ali Jaberzadeh Ansari is a high-ranking MKO theorist that had been tasked with legitimizing the various terrorist operations carried out by the group in Iran and Iraq.
The MKO has committed acts of aggression against both Iranian and Iraqi nationals and remains banned by the European Union and the United States. In a recent move, however, Britain removed the MKO from its blacklist of terror organizations.
The UK initiative has prompted the European Union to establish relations with the exiled organization now based in Paris. The European Court of First Instance threw its weight behind the MKO on Thursday and annulled its previous decision to freeze its funds.
The recent support for the MKO has led the group to initiate various trips to Europe and the United States to lobby for its removal from the lists of terrorist organizations banned by Western countries.
Evidence links the group to the June, 1981 bombing of the offices of the Islamic Republic Party, in which more than 72 Iranian officials were killed, including then Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti.
The assassination the following August of Iranian president Mohammad Rajae'i and prime minister Javad Bahonar has also been attributed to the group.
Law professor: Constitution should prevent extradition to Iran
Ministry to decide on fate of men ordered not to leave Finland
The Ministry of Justice is expected to decide in the coming weeks on whether or not to extradite two men wanted by Iran on charges of terrorism. In recent years Finland has refused to extradite a criminal suspect to another country only once, but this case is likely to be an exception. It involves two Iranian men who were detained on an international arrest warrant as they entered Finland on Sunday. The two, who live in exile in France, are members of an Iranian opposition group. They came to Finland to participate in NGO activities linked with the OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting, and to prepare for a visit to the Finnish Parliament by Iranian human rights advocates. The two were released from custody on Wednesday, and ordered not to leave the country for the time being.
Finnish Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green) said on Thursday that the Finnish constitution prohibits the extradition of anyone to a country where they might face the death penalty, torture, or other inhumane treatment. Iran still implements the death penalty. Human rights expert Martin Scheinin, a professor of international law, says that he does not believe that it is possible to extradite the men to Iran. He also advises the Ministry of Justice to be cautious when it makes a decision on the matter. According to the Ministry of Justice, Iran issued an arrest warrant through Interpol in 2002. Under the request, they are to be apprehended for extradition to Iran. Finland acted according to the warrant, and stopped them at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Sunday. Vantaa District Court released the men, but ordered them not to leave Finland.
Brax would not take a stand on the case of the two men, saying that Iran had not submitted an official extradition request. The Ministry of Justice has told Iran that it should submit such a request on Friday next week at the latest. “Handling it will undoubtedly take several days”, says ministry official Juhani Korhonen. Iran’s Ambassador to Finland Reza Nazarahari said in Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday that he hopes that the two will be sent to Iran for trial.
The ambassador claimed that the men have committed numerous crimes and have taken part in terrorist acts as members of the terrorist organisation MKO. MKO does have a violent history, but numerous European parliamentarians see it as a non-violent organisation, and are calling on the EU to remove it from the list of terrorist groups.
The EU court declared on Thursday, for a third time, that MKO (also known by the initials PMOI) is not a terrorist organisation. In the view of the court, the EU was wrong to keep the assets of the organisation frozen. MP Heidi Hautala (Green) points out that the men have been granted exile in France decades ago. She suspects that with its actions, Iran is trying to intimidate critics of its administration into silence. Finland receives about one extradition request a year for a criminal from a country outside the EU, and the Ministry of Justice complies with the requests almost always.
Finland refused to extradite one person in 2007. The case reportedly involved a man suspected of theft in Belarus.