The MEK was penetrated by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police before it could become operational. SAVAK discovered a safe house and was able to identify several members, who were interrogated and tortured. This led SAVAK to additional members who were also arrested.
By September 1971, SAVAK had captured and imprisoned about 150 MEK members, which included the group’s founders and members of the Central Committee. Sixty-nine Mojahedin were brought before military tribunals and charged with attempting to overthrow the monarchy, among other offenses.
The trials of MEK members were initially open to the media. The MEK was unknown at this time, but the resistance organization rapidly became a household name, which was lauded for its efforts to bring democracy and freedom to Iran. Media coverage was terminated once members publicly disclosed that they were tortured while in custody of SAVAK.
The regime executed or imprisoned all of the MEK’s leadership, including its founders and members of the Central Committee, but one, Massoud Rajavi. He received a death penalty like others, but Massoud Rajavi’s brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi, organized an international campaign from his home in Geneva to commute Massoud’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Top French officials intervened as well, and Rajavi’s sentence was commuted.
The MEK struggled without a leadership structure, and the remaining organization was taken over by pro-communists. These usurpers took the organization’s name and remaining assets. Low-level MEK members were offered the choice of either supporting the new leadership and ideology or being expelled. Some of these members were murdered.