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Jailing of Iranian Woman Protested

June 27, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A bipartisan group of House members is protesting detention of an Iranian woman jailed in Virginia two months after she was deported from Canada as a former commander of an alleged terrorist group.

Mahnaz Samadi, who gained political asylum in the United States five years ago after she was imprisoned and tortured in Iran, is being held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in a jail in Hopewell, Va. She is accused in immigration documents of preparing rebel units under her command for ``coordinated attacks designed to liberate Iran.″

House members led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, along with 60 other House members, signed a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno pleading for Samadi’s release and accusing U.S. officials of mistreating her.

Samadi, 35, has the backing of the National Council for Resistance of Iran, which has been praised by many Republican and Democratic members Congress as a legitimate group seeking reform of an anti-democratic government. The State Department, however, continues to list it as an alias for the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq, which it describes as a terrorist organization.

``It is our conviction that Ms. Samadi should be immediately released,″ said Ros-Lehtinen, quoted in a release from her office. ``The persecution of those seeking to liberate their homeland violates the principles upon which this country was founded.″

Samadi has denied any terrorist acts, and her Washington attorney, Michael Maggio, says she is no longer a member of the Iranian opposition and has committed no crimes in this country.

The State Department has come under repeated criticism for its rejection of the Iranian opposition as it tries to establish warmer relations with more-moderate leaders in Iran.

``Given the Iranian regime’s record of crimes against humanity, it is the right of the Iranian people, including Ms. Samadi, to resist their repressive rulers,″ the House members said in their letter. They said Samadi’s detention sends the wrong message to Iran’s rulers.

Amnesty International and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees also have protested Ms. Samadi’s detention as a human rights violation. Supporters describe her as a strong advocate of human rights and women’s rights.

Samadi has said she was imprisoned and tortured from 1982 until 1986 for her opposition to the Iranian government. She says two of her brothers, Amir and Manouchehr, were executed at ages 18 and 21.

She was granted U.S. political asylum in 1994, but immigration officials said she did not tell them then that she had been a commander in the rebel army. It was not until her February arrest in Canada and her deportation back to the United States in April that U.S. officials arrested her.

Canadian authorities accused Samadi of lying about her links to the Iranian resistance.

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