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Arab Israel Conflict
EU court removes Hamas from terror list
From the Financial Times of Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:46:43 GMT
epa04529296 Top Hamas leader Sheikh Ismaeli Haneiya waves to Hamas supporters during a Hamas rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of Hamas militant group in Gaza City on, 14 December 2014. Members of the Islamist Hamas movement said it was only a 'matter of time' before a prisoner swap is negotiated with Israel. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER©EPA

Hamas senior leader Ismail Haniya waves to supporters during a rally in Gaza City on December 14 to mark the 27th anniversary of the militant group

The European Court of Justice on Wednesday removed the militant Palestinian group Hamas from a blacklist of terrorist organisations because of a legal technicality, but said it would retain a ban on funding the group for at least three months pending further appeals.

The decision came in response to a court challenge from lawyers representing Hamas, the armed Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip and fought Israel during a 50-day war last summer.

The Islamist group made its appeal after the court ruled earlier this year to overturn a decision keeping Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers on its list of terrorist organisations, citing similar legal grounds.

In response to the news, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said: “We are not satisfied with the European Union’s explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organisations is a ‘technical matter’.”

Mr Netanyahu, who described the group as “a murderous terrorist organisation, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal”, said “the burden of proof is on the EU” and that Israel expected it to return Hamas to the blacklist.

The Luxembourg-based court said its judgment found that keeping Hamas on the list was “based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet”.

The court said any EU decision to freeze funds to a group must be based on “elements which have been concretely examined and confirmed” by authorities in member states.

“Therefore the court annuls the contested measures while temporarily maintaining the effects of those measures in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds,” it said in a statement.

“The effects of the measures are maintained for a period of three months, or, if an appeal is brought before the Court of Justice, until this appeal is closed.”

Hamas was put on the EU’s terror blacklist in 2003. The group’s Al-Qassam armed wing was responsible for a string of bombings during the Second intifada a decade ago that killed a number of Israelis and others.

During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in July and August, Hamas fired rockets and mortars toward Israeli towns and cities, many of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system but some killed or injured civilians.

More than 2,100 Palestinians died during the war, along with 71 Israelis — including five civilians — and one Thai citizen.

The Luxembourg court said on Wednesday that the annulment of its decision “does not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group”.

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