Mahnaz Samadi

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Mahnaz Samadi
Born1965 (age 57–58)[1]
AllegiancePeople's Mujahedin of Iran
Conviction(s)Act of terrorism (1982)
Illegal entry (2000)
Criminal chargeProviding logistical support for terrorist operations (2000)[2]
CountryIran, Canada, United States
Date apprehended
Imprisoned atEvin Prison
Etowah County Jail, Alabama

Mahnaz Samadi (Persian: مهناز صمدی) is a member of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).


Iran and Iraq[edit]

Samadi joined the MEK in 1980 and was an active fighter for them during the 1980s. In 1982, she was accused of leading a terrorist attack against the Iranian government on behalf of the organization.[3][4] Warren Creates, her lawyer in a 2000 case said she had been penalized for "bombings that were against legitimate targets".[5] Samadi was imprisoned in Evin Prison for four years, and was released in 1986, before escaping from Iran.[6] She became a commander of the military wing of the MEK based in Iraq, called the "National Liberation Army of Iran",[5] and responsible for training female fighters at Camp Ashraf.[7] According to Mahan Abedin, she was also a chief liaison officer with the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) of Saddam Hussein.[8]

The United States and Canada[edit]

In 1993, she replaced Robab Farahi-Mahdavieh as the leader of North American operations of the MEK's civilian front.[3][4] Samadi came to the United States in 1994,[9] and was granted refugee status in 1996.[7] She did not disclose her MEK ties to the authorities at the time she applied for it.[7] According to Lorraine Adams of The Washington Times, she freely admitted her opposition to the Iranian government (which was already the basis for her seeking asylum) but when the application asked about membership in "any organizations or groups in your home country", she believed that the MEK's armed wing did not qualify as such because it was based in Iraq, hesitating to mention it.[1] She lived as a permanent residence in California,[10] and continued her activity with the organization.[11] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes she was MEK's cell leader in Los Angeles for a short time, succeeding Golnaz Javaherisaatchi.[12]

Samadi entered Canada illegally in November 1999 through a border crossing in Vancouver, and reportedly held secret meetings with several members of the MEK in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa.[7] A report by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) stated that she "was responsible for directing some MEK operations in Iraq" and that she was sent to Canada "to act in an organizational capacity", leading to her arrest in December 1999, in an apartment across the street from the new Embassy of the United States, Ottawa.[13] The Ottawa Citizen carried a prominent front-page headline, "Secret arrest of a Saddam ally", with her illustration on 1 February 2000.[14] The case quickly became a cause celebre for the MEK.[15]

In order to be released of the costudy, she lied under oath to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) about her membership in the MEK, denying being involved its military wing,[2][9][11] and claimed to be in Canada "to see a sick aunt and visit friends"[10] while admitting that she entered Canada illegally.[5] The CSIS had provided the authorities with a picture of Samadi as a commander, published in a NLAI magazine.[11] IRB adjudicator Rolland Ladouceur, found her testimony "neither credible nor trustworthy", and said "considering the evidence that Ms. Samadi [has] been a commander of the National Liberation Army, and considering that there are reasonable grounds to believe that this organization did engage in terrorist acts".[5]

On 3 April 2000, Samadi was deported back to the United States.[2][9][11] and was immediately arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) at the border.[1] She was in custody at jails in Buffalo and Syracuse in New York, before being transferred to South Fulton, Georgia,[1] and eventually to Etowah County, Alabama.[16] According to court documents obtained by Newsweek, Samadi was charged with failing to disclose her "terrorist" past.[15] There she applied for political asylum in July 2000, after her refugee status was revoked.[17] Samadi was in danger of deportation to Iran, but several senior officials became involved to prevent the process.[4]

John Ashcroft, serving in his then-capacity as Senator from Missouri, wrote a May 10 plea for lenience in her hearing to Attorney General Janet Reno, arguing that Samadi was a "highly regarded human-rights activist".[15] Ashcroft also issued a joint statement with the MEK at a rally outside the UN building.[18] Later, sixty-two members of the Congress demanded her release in June 2000.[19] "[P]ressure from sympathetic members of Congress helped win her release", according to Aaron Sands of The Ottawa Citizen.[7]

Departure from North America[edit]

According to a 2004 report by the FBI, Samadi was last seen in Washington D.C. in 2000, and unconfirmed reports allege that she was seen in Auvers-sur-Oise, France in 2001 and 2002.[12] Mahan Abedin claimed in 2003 that she was in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Adams, Lorraine (6 May 2000), "Iranian Rights Activist's Backers Assail Bid to Deport Her", The Washington Times
  2. ^ a b c Canada Intelligence, Security Activities and Operations Handbook, vol. 1, International Business Publications, 2015, p. 249, ISBN 978-0-7397-16151
  3. ^ a b Martin, Gus (2004), The New Era of Terrorism: Selected Readings, SAGE, p. 94, ISBN 9780761988731
  4. ^ a b c Cunningham, Karla J. (2003), "Cross-Regional Trends in Female Terrorism", Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 26 (3): 171–195, doi:10.1080/10576100390211419, S2CID 110362253
  5. ^ a b c d "Accused Iranian terrorist ordered deported", The Globe and Mail, 4 April 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018
  6. ^ "Liberator in chains", The Washington Times, 3 May 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018
  7. ^ a b c d e Sands, Aaron (17 November 2001), "Saddam's deadly secret", The Ottawa Citizen, p. B1 / Front, retrieved 21 August 2018 – via Free Republic
  8. ^ a b "Spies who are coming out from the cold", The Daily Star, 6 September 2003, archived from the original on 27 August 2018, retrieved 21 August 2018
  9. ^ a b c "Canada Deports Iranian Rebel Leader", Associated Press, 4 April 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018
  10. ^ a b "Suspected Iranian terrorist deported", CBC News, 4 April 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018
  11. ^ a b c d "Iranian dissident ordered out of Canada", United Press International, 3 April 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018
  12. ^ a b "Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Criminal Investigation" (PDF), Federal Bureau of Investigation, p. 10, 29 November 2004, 90024, archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2016, retrieved 21 August 2018
  13. ^ Bell, Stewart (July 19, 2004), "Guerrillas claim links to Canada", The National Post
  14. ^ Karim Haiderali Karim (2000), Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence, Black Rose Books, p. viii, ISBN 9781551641737
  15. ^ a b c Isikoff, Michael (26 September 2002), "Ashcroft's Baghdad Connection", Newsweek, retrieved 21 August 2018
  16. ^ Adams, Lorraine; Vise, David A. (1 June 2000), "Outrage Over Terrorist Suspect's Treatment", The Washington Post, p. A23, retrieved 21 August 2018
  17. ^ Carter, Tom (7 July 2000), "Iranian Fears Death after U.S. Expulsion", The Washington Times, archived from the original on 18 March 2016, retrieved 21 August 2018
  18. ^ Howard, Roger (2013), Iran in Crisis?: Nuclear Ambitions and the American Response, Zed Books Ltd., p. 203, ISBN 978-1-8481-37110
  19. ^ "62 House Members Demand Release Of Jailed Iranian Woman", Ms. Magazine, 29 June 2000, retrieved 21 August 2018