On Sept. 28, 2012, the State Department formally removed the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. The move frees up any assets the MEK has in the U.S. and Americans are permitted to do business with the Iranian group without a license, the State Department said in a press conference held on the same day. The status of the Treasury Department’s investigation into whether payments made to MEK supporters, including current and former government officials, violated sanctions that prohibit financial dealings with listed terrorist group, remains unclear.
The move came just days ahead of a U.S. Court of Appeals Oct. 1 deadline for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide the MEK’s status. The court had previously said that the process State used to put them on the list was done improperly because the group did not have an opportunity to rebut the FTO listing.
Supporters of the Iranian group in Paris and in the U.S. welcomed the news, but others say the decision to remove the group calls into question how the FTO list is managed. Mila Johns, a researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, says the MEK campaign to be removed from the list, that included numerous demonstrations at the State Department, full-page ads in major newspapers, and payments to high-level U.S. officials to make public appearances on behalf of the MEK, “created the impression that the list is essentially a meaningless political tool.”
No other group, she noted, has been de-listed in this way. “Though now that the precedent has been set, I would expect that other groups will explore this as an option,” she added.
President Bill Clinton had designated the group as an FTO in 1997.