Liberals defend meeting terrorist-branded group
Five Liberal members of Parliament say they did nothing wrong when they accepted an invitation from an Iranian opposition group on Canada's terrorist list.
MPs Raymonde Folco, Carolyn Bennett, Rob Oliphant, Andrew Telegdi and Tom Wappel travelled to France at the invitation of Mojahedin e Khalq, or MEK, also known as the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. The trips are detailed in travel reports submitted to the federal ethics commissioner for the years 2008 and 2009.
The groups' tactics have led both Canada and the U.S. to deem it a terrorist organization.
According to Public Safety Canada's website, which lists groups Canada has branded as terrorist organizations, MEK is based in Iraq, with the principal objective to overthrow the existing Iranian regime.
"To achieve their objectives, the MEK has used physical force, including armed attacks," the website says.
It was listed as a terrorist organization in 2005, when Liberal Paul Martin was prime minister.
In 2008, the European Union removed MEK from its terrorism watch list, and Canadian MPs have attended its Paris conferences for the past three years.
In travel reports filed by the MPs, the sponsor appears mostly as the Iran Democratic Association. But Folco does not deny who paid for her ticket and makes no apologies either.
"I was invited by MEK, the Mojahedin e Khalq," she said.
Folco said she knows the group is on Canada's terrorism list.
Bennett admitted that meeting with the group and accepting free travel from it carries risks. But she also said Canada needs to take a second look at the terrorism listing.
"Sometimes we need to take risks," Bennett said.
Bennett said she knows the group has a checkered past but that she will take them at their word when they say they want to bring democracy to Iran.
A variety of militant opposition groups seeking the end of Iran's theocratic regime, including the Iranian Labour and Democratic parties, operate in exile from Iraq. Several of them have received support from the United States.