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The MEK Trial: Iranian Regime’s Response to an Existential Threat

iran court trial mek leaders
A sham trial in Tehran is orchestrated every week to pretend members of the Iranian Resistance have enjoyed a fair trial by the regime

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In a surprising turn of events in July 2023, the judiciary of the Iranian regime made a startling announcement: the formation of a special court to try the leaders of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition group to the Iranian regime. This move, unprecedented in its nature, raised eyebrows and questions among many observers both within Iran and internationally.

The regime, infamous for its harsh treatment of political dissenters and opposition groups, revealed the names of 104 individuals associated with the MEK who would face trial. Among them were officials, members of the organization, and individuals affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). This decision came as a surprise to many, considering the regime’s long-standing policy of brutal suppression and persecution of MEK members.

But why would a regime notorious for its human rights abuses suddenly opt for a judicial approach in dealing with the MEK? In a regime where affiliation with the MEK is deemed equivalent to being labeled a “Mohareb,” or enemy of God, carrying a death sentence, the rationale behind setting up such a court raises significant questions.

The trial commenced on Tuesday, November 22, 2023, marking the beginning of a series of weekly sessions. The indictment presented by the prosecutor’s representative during the first session framed the MEK as a continued security threat requiring eradication, even in the absence of immediate military capabilities.

Numerous regime officials voiced support for these courts through the regime’s media outlets, attributing their establishment to the regime’s apprehension regarding the MEK and its sway over younger generations. They indicated that the youth may be unaware of the alleged “crimes” committed by the MEK and may be deceived into joining their ranks. Additionally, some officials emphasized the necessity of trying the MEK in Iranian civil courts to curb their activities abroad and potentially prompt host countries to take action against the group.

In the text of the indictment read by the prosecutor’s representative in the first session of the court, it states, “All elements of this group, although residing in different countries and currently unable to carry out organized military operations, still potentially pose a security threat to all resident countries. Nevertheless, by law and for the sake of justice, they must confront their demise.”

Now the question arises: why is the regime so fearful of the MEK that it has taken such drastic action and convened this court, with its media extensively covering the issue? If the MEK is truly an ineffective group lacking popular support, why would the regime devote such significant attention to it?

Over the past forty years, the regime has regarded the MEK as its primary adversary, perceiving the growth and expansion of the organization among the Iranian populace and youth as the sole threat to its survival. In 1988, when faced with a ceasefire agreement with Iraq, the regime identified the MEK as its paramount existential threat. Consequently, it perpetrated a massacre within its prisons, executing over 30,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom were members or supporters of the MEK.

Currently, the regime finds itself in a crisis, grappling with an impasse in the aftermath of the 2022 uprising, with its very survival under significant threat. The clerical regime experienced the overthrow by the Iranian people in 2022, which served as a continuation of the series of uprisings initiated in 2017. Central to the persistence and intensification of these uprisings was the pivotal role and presence of MEK Resistance Units.

During the 2022 uprising, despite the arrest of over 3,600 members of the Resistance Units, their activities not only endured but also proliferated. Presently, they persist in igniting the flames of resistance and dissent against the regime in cities throughout Iran, serving as a beacon of inspiration for the country’s youth.

The volatile social landscape in Iranian society, combined with the extensive deployment of Resistance Units across the nation, presents a formidable challenge to the regime’s continued existence. The regime’s reaction to this crisis and its endeavor to retain control is evident in the trial of 104 MEK leaders.

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The state-run Fars News Agency, in a comprehensive report on the initial session, branded the MEK as “hypocrites” and stressed the necessity of addressing them. The report elaborated, stating, “Another crucial aspect is the peril posed by hypocrites to any society, which surpasses that of other adversaries due to the complexity of identifying them. They represent internal threats and can deeply infiltrate society, making their detection and isolation exceedingly challenging.”

“Moreover, their various relationships with other members of society make the struggle against them challenging,” the news agency run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps added. “For this reason, Islam throughout its history has suffered the most significant blows from the hypocrites, and for the same reason, the Quran has directed its toughest attacks against the hypocrites, continuously warning against dealing with them and waging jihad against them.”

In summary, the regime is facing a crisis of potential overthrow and, as in the past, perceives the elimination of the MEK, its primary organized opposition, as the only means of survival. The establishment of this court serves to pave the way for the targeting and elimination of MEK members abroad, as well as the execution and torture of MEK members and Resistance Units within Iran. Consequently, there has been a notable increase in the arrests of MEK supporters within Iran in recent months, accompanied by a surge in executions compared to previous periods.