By Martin Banks - 16th October 2012
Schultz should cancel this visit immediately
British MEP Struan Stevenson has called for a planned "friendship" delegation from parliament to the "murderous" regime in Iran to be called off immediately.
Details of the trip come 24 hours after the EU announced fresh sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Stevenson, a Scottish Conservative MEP who is chairman of parliament's friends of a free Iran intergroup, said the visit to Tehran scheduled in less than two weeks should be cancelled, if necessary by the assembly's president Martin Schulz.
On October 26 the 16-strong delegation will meet with a 'friendship delegation' from the Iranian parliament led by Kazem Jalili who is said to "boast" on his website of his membership of the Bassidj paramilitary force and the Iranian revolutionary guards corps, which is on the EU and US terrorist list.
Jalali also chairs the Iranian parliament's 'committee for friendship' with Syria.
In a recent speech he praised the victory of Hizbollah over the "Zionist regime" in the 33-day war in Lebanon, claiming it to be one of Iran's "greatest achievements".
Speaking at a news conference in parliament on Tuesday, Stevenson said, "Schulz should cancel this visit immediately."
He added, "It is scandalous that a large official delegation should be going to Tehran.
"Only yesterday the EU has instituted even tougher sanctions on Iran, this simply sends mixed messages.
"The visit will be ruthlessly exploited for propaganda purposes by the Iranian regime, and it will come as a huge disappointment to the tens of thousands of courageous Iranian citizens who have repeatedly risked their lives to protest against the oppression of the mullahs' regime and its support for Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
"It is necessary to understand the nature of the regime that our European parliament delegation will meet. Amnesty International says that their use of the death penalty now exceeds any other country in the world, averaging around two to three executions daily. Many executions are conducted in public where the victims are suffocated slowly by being hoisted by a rope attached to a crane.
"There are currently 143 children on death row awaiting execution after they reach the age of 18. Last year, they hanged a Dutch woman on trumped up charges of involvement in drug smuggling, when in fact she had been originally arrested for participating in a political protest. The Dutch government closed its embassy and withdrew its ambassador in protest.
"The Iranian regime continues to enrich plutonium for the clear purpose of building nuclear weapons, despite repeated protests from the west. A nuclear-armed Iran will seek regional dominance and be a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East and to the world. Iran already has massive destabilising influence in neighbouring Iraq."
The delegation will be led by Finnish Green deputy Tarja Cronberg. The last parliament delegation to go to Tehran was in 2007 and was led by German Green Angelika Beer.
On the day of their arrival, there was a mass public hanging in Tehran in what was seen as a protest to any EU criticism of human rights in Iran.
Beer later criticised EU sanctions and claimed they had not resolved the on-going human rights violations in Iran.
Stevenson's demand comes the day after EU governments agreed further sanctions against Iran's banking, shipping and industrial sectors.
The move is designed to crank up financial pressure on Tehran in the hope of drawing it into serious negotiations on its nuclear programme.
The decision by EU foreign ministers reflected mounting concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions and Israeli threats to attack Iranian atomic installations if a mix of sanctions and diplomacy fails to lead to a peaceful solution.
On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hoped that turning up the heat on the Islamic Republic would persuade it to make concessions, and that negotiations could resume "very soon".
"I absolutely do think there is room for negotiations. I hope we will be able to make progress very soon, "said Ashton, who is representing the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany in their on-and-off talks with Iran.