{mosimage}United Press International, By Lord Dholakia: On Jan. 24, the Iranian regime's Interior Ministry announced that more than 2,000 so-called reformists had been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, effectively ensuring that allies of the regime's ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would retain and perhaps strengthen their hold on the 290-seat Parliament come March 14.

United Press International

By LORD DHOLAKIA
UPI Outside View Commentator

{mosimage}LONDON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- On Jan. 24, the Iranian regime's Interior Ministry announced that more than 2,000 so-called reformists had been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, effectively ensuring that allies of the regime's ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would retain and perhaps strengthen their hold on the 290-seat Parliament come March 14.

The announcement came less than 48 hours after the U.N. Security Council's permanent five members and Germany reached an agreement to impose new sanctions on the regime over its refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment activities in line with demands by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The international community is right to be concerned about the regime's illegal activities on the global arena, but it should pay an equally warranted level of attention to the mullahs' domestic clampdown on dissent.

In January, state media reported authorities amputated the hands and legs of five individuals for being "mohareb" (or "waging war on God"), a charge often leveled against political opponents of the Islamic Republic. Over the past 27 years, the theocratic dictatorship has executed more than 120,000 of its political opponents, mostly affiliated with the main democratic opposition movement People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran.

Recently, I was witness to footage smuggled out by Iranian exiles of women being beaten by security forces in Iran. The face covered in blood of one of the women I saw reminded me of the enormous price the Iranian people are paying for freedom.

Yet, rather than supporting the brave Iranian youths who long for change, our government is assisting the regime that is suppressing the men and women of the PMOI. At the behest of Tehran, Jack Straw as British home secretary blacklisted the PMOI in 2001. He then proceeded in 2002 as foreign secretary to persuade the European Union to ban the group as well.

Seeing this injustice, hundreds of members of Parliament and peers from all the major political parties added their names to various petitions demanding the government reverse its unethical actions. Our calls fell on deaf ears in Whitehall. Not to be outdone and knowing that the ban on the PMOI was political in nature, 35 of us from both houses of Parliament filed a legal challenge against the government at the courts.

After the government failed to produce a shred of evidence against the Iranian Resistance, on Nov. 30, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission voted in the PMOI's favor and ordered the government to lift its ban. The government refused and the PMOI remain proscribed.

The PMOI separately challenged the EU over its listing there. On Dec. 12, 2006, the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU-wide ban on the PMOI was "unlawful" and ordered the group's name be removed from the blacklist. But again, under pressure from our government, the EU chose to defy the court ruling. It announced last June that it would maintain the PMOI in the list.

On Jan. 23 my colleagues Lord Russell-Johnston and Mike Hancock, MP, vociferously defended the PMOI at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, and eventually the Council's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution rebuking the EU for its refusal to lift the ban on the PMOI and stating: "The Council of the European Union and the EU member states must implement immediately the decisions of competent European and national judicial institutions affecting the status of the listed persons and entities."

It is now time for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government to admit to their past mistakes and lift the ban on the PMOI. The Iranian people have a right to resist against a regime that refuses to allow the slightest political opposition to its illegitimate rule and which employs more than 170 forms of torture. We in the West should be assisting them politically by openly supporting the president-elect of the Iranian Resistance, Maryam Rajavi, and isolating the regime through comprehensive sanctions.

Rajavi has said time and again that neither war nor appeasement is the solution to the Iranian problem. She states unequivocally that there is a third option: support for the Iranian people and resistance to bring about democratic change in Iran. At a time when the mullahs' regime has become the main international pariah, we should heed Rajavi's wise words by first of all lifting the ban on the PMOI.

--

(Lord Dholakia of Waltham Brooks OBE DL is deputy leader of the United Kingdom's Liberal Democrat Party)