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New Self-Immolations Reported as Iranians Protest in Europe
VOA News
19 Jun 2003, 13:20 UTC

Three Iranians have set themselves on fire in two separate protests in Europe over a French crackdown on an Iranian opposition group. Two men set themselves ablaze during a demonstration by at least 20 people outside the French embassy in Rome. Police quickly intervened to douse the flames. Another Iranian set himself on fire during a similar protest in the Swiss capital, Berne. Authorities have provided no information on the condition of the three.

Two women and a man remain in serious condition after setting themselves ablaze Wednesday during a similar protest in Paris. Meanwhile, demonstrations continue in the French capital for a second day protesting a mass roundup in France Tuesday of about 160 Iranian exiles belonging to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran. Police are still holding 26 members of the group, which is opposed to the government in Tehran and until recently has been operating mainly from bases in Iraq.

Those still held include Maryam Rajavi, the wife of group leader Massoud Rajavi. In 1993, the opposition group declared Mrs. Rajavi to be "Iran's future president."

In a statement issued by the organization, Mrs. Rajavi Thursday, called on supporters to refrain from self-immolation, but to continue peaceful protests against the crackdown. The United States and the European Union have designated the People's Mujahedeen a terrorist group.

Wednesday, the head of France's intelligence service, Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, told reporters the group had planned attacks on Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe, but did not specify any of the targets.

The People's Mujahedeen participated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution but later fell victim to brutal repression by the clerical government. Its leaders fled to France but were expelled in 1986 and were given shelter by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Following the U.S.-led war on Iraq, the group's army reached a cease-fire with coalition forces and began surrendering its weapons to U.S. troops.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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