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One Dead in Iranian Exile Protest

June 19, 2003|From Times Wire Services

PARIS — Three Iranian exiles set themselves on fire Wednesday to protest France's crackdown on an Iranian dissident group that authorities said may have been planning attacks on Tehran's embassies in Europe. One of the demonstrators died of her burns.

The three exiles were attending a demonstration against Tuesday's raids on the Moujahedeen Khalq, which is opposed to Islamic rule in Tehran.

Marzieh Babakhani, 40; Segigheh Mojaveri, 38; and Mohammed Vakilifar, 45; set fire to their clothes at a protest outside France's DST counterintelligence agency near the Eiffel Tower, witnesses said. Babakhani later died, Moujahedeen Khalq representatives said.

Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, the head of DST, told a news conference that the group had been turning its Val d'Oise center near Paris into its main base.

"We know that they had the intention to commit attacks outside Iran, including in Europe, against Iranian interests and even against diplomatic" missions, he said.

However, an official from the group's political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, denied any such plans.

Ali Safavi, a London-based council official said: "The Moujahedeen have never attacked Iranian embassies and there were no such plans."

The council said protesters would stay outside DST headquarters until their leader, Maryam Rajavi, is released. The DST's Tuesday raids rounded up 159 exiles, but by Wednesday morning, police had released all but 26 of those detained.

The raids also netted suitcases of $100 bills worth at least $8 million, De Bousquet de Florian said.

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