Ulster politicians on Paris mission to meet Iranian opposition leader

editorial image

Two prominent Ulster political figures have travelled to Paris to meet the head of an Iranian opposition movement which seeks to overthrow the current Tehran government.

Lord Maginnis and Ian Paisley Jnr yesterday were part of a cross-party Westminster delegation of MPs and peers, led by former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd and Lord Carlile, who met the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

The former Ulster Unionist peer and DUP MP met with the NCRI’s president, Maryam Rajavi, at its French base.

Lord Maginnis said that he had been involved with the Iranian opposition movement for “a considerable number of years” but had never visited the country as it would not allow him to do so.

He described Madame Rajavi as “quite inspirational” and claimed that although new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was elected on a reformist ticket, his past role in crushing uprisings against the Iranian authorities meant that he could not be more than a “plausible bluffer”.

Lord Maginnis added that since Mr Rouhani — who last week was warmly received at the Davos meeting of world financial leaders — had been elected, he had hanged twice as many people as his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Lord Maginnis said: “Madame Rajavi has got a tremendous understanding of democracy. Her platform for the future of Iran is very well defined, it’s defined in terms of a pluralist system...with room for everyone.”

He added: “I do get the impression that there will, sooner or later, possibly be some sort of bloodless coup or some sort of compromise.”

Lord Maginnis welcomed the 2012 US decision to no longer describe the NCRI’s sister group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), as a terrorist group, following the lead of the European Union.

The peer said that in his view the PMOI’s actions — which included bombings after the 1979 Iranian revolution — were “entirely different” to those of the IRA.