{mosimage}Sunday Telegraph: Tomorrow morning, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, will preside over what must be the most bizarre and politically fraught case ever brought before him. Sitting with two other judges as the Court of Appeal, he will hear an application from Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, for leave to appeal against an order by the High Court that she and the Government must stop breaking the law - solely to appease the murderous regime in Iran which, apart from all its other crimes, is arming terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The Sunday Telegraph

By Christopher Booker

{mosimage}Christopher Booker's Notebook

Tomorrow morning, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, will preside over what must be the most bizarre and politically fraught case ever brought before him. Sitting with two other judges as the Court of Appeal, he will hear an application from Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, for leave to appeal against an order by the High Court that she and the Government must stop breaking the law - solely to appease the murderous regime in Iran which, apart from all its other crimes, is arming terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The political ramifications of this case are immense. Already it is causing considerable embarrassment to our Government, which not only misled its EU allies into an action found illegal by the EU's own courts, but has now been boxed in still further by criticism from the Council of Europe, in a near-unanimous vote of disapproval supported by the leader of the UK delegation, John Prescott.

This extraordinary story began in 2001 when the then home secretary, Jack Straw, on Foreign Office advice, obeyed Iran's request to outlaw the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) as a terrorist organisation. The Teheran regime regards the PMOI as its main enemy, since it forms a large part of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), a movement with huge popular support which wishes to see Iran liberated from the theocratic dictatorship of the mullahs and transformed into a modern, secular, democratic country. Since 1979, the regime's death squads have murdered 120,000 NCRI supporters.

In 2002, at Britain's insistence, the EU also outlawed the PMOI as terrorists. But in 2006 the EU's second highest court ruled that this decision was "unlawful". Astonishingly, and again at Britain's insistence, the EU's Council of Ministers voted twice last year to defy its own court. Last summer, 35 MPs and peers, with several former ministers, a former law lord and a home secretary among them, having asked in vain for the Government to lift its ban, applied to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Committee, a branch of the High Court, to rule it illegal.

In November, after hearing 10 days of evidence, some in secret, the High Court delivered an unequivocal judgment. Neither the Home Office nor the Foreign Office had produced any evidence that the PMOI were terrorists. The Government's refusal to lift the ban had been "flawed" and "perverse". The Home Secretary must immediately lay an order before Parliament removing the PMOI from its list of terrorist organisations. When Smith asked for leave to appeal, this was rejected by the court, which ruled that she "had no reasonable prospects of succeeding".

The Government has one last hope: to convince the Court of Appeal to give it the right to appeal. That the Lord Chief Justice himself is to preside over tomorrow's hearing indicates how important the judiciary recognises this case to be. If the Government loses, it will have nowhere to turn, greatly embarrassing it in front of its EU partners, who only agreed to proscribe the PMOI on evidence supplied by British officials.

Indeed, those embarrassments have already begun. In January a Council of Europe report which is highly critical of our Government's conduct was approved by more than 100 delegates, including Mr Prescott. One of only three votes against came from Denis McShane, a former Foreign Office minister. On January 31 the European Parliament also formally noted that the High Court had ordered the UK Government to lift its ban.

Meanwhile, the Teheran regime has stepped up its reign of terror in recent weeks, with more public hangings, torture, amputations and gouging out of eyes, of the kind personally supervised by President Ahmedinejad when he was an official in Teheran's notorious Evin prison. Yet this is the regime which our own Government does all it can to appease: the same regime whose Revolutionary Guards are supporting the terrorists who are killing British troops, and which is still working to enrich the uranium it needs to build nuclear weapons.

If there is one hope for peace in that region, it centres on those Iranians who alone could restore their country to sanity; the very people whom, incomprehensibly, our Government still seems determined to suppress.