MKO members move to Camp Liberty

Four hundred Iranian dissidents on Friday started relocating from Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, to a temporary home near the Iraqi capital’s international airport.

The Iranian exiles are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which was designated a terror group by the State Department in 1997.

The Iranians have not been allowed to carry photographs of MeK leaders or some personal belongings, including special furniture and medical equipment, said Behzad Saffari, part of the group that is being moved to Camp Liberty.

Three hundred and ninety seven exiles departed in 18 buses beginning about 1:30 am on Saturday (2230 GMT on Friday), escorted by Iraqi security forces, Behzad Saffari, the legal adviser for residents of the camp, told AFP by telephone.

The departing exiles and their belongings were searched prior to their departure in a lengthy process that began around 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) on Friday, and continued until 1:15 am on Saturday (2215 GMT on Friday), said Saffari, who was travelling with the group to Camp Liberty, near Baghdad airport.

A U.N.-brokered deal to extend a deadline and move Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty potentially avoided what the exiles and their supporters feared would be a massacre by Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi government has set an April 30 deadline to close Camp Ashraf.

U.N. officials are monitoring the move.

“The residents do not have much trust in UNAMI,” said Mr. Saffari, referring to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq.

A spokeswoman for Martin Kobler, a special representative of the U.N. secretary-general, said the Iraqi government bears the “primary responsibility for the security and the welfare of the residents of Camp Ashraf.”

“At the same time, the residents of Camp Ashraf also bear a responsibility to abide by the laws of Iraq,” said Radhia Achouri, the U.N. spokesperson.

On Jan. 31, U.N. officials certified that conditions at Camp Liberty meet international standards.

None of Camp Ashraf’s residents have visited Camp Liberty, but said they based their allegations on information for sources in Iran.