The European Union’s top court on Wednesday upheld the bloc’s decision to put Palestinian movement Hamas on its terrorism blacklist, sending the case back to a lower court for reconsideration.
The European Court of Justice overturned a 2014 ruling by the bloc’s second highest court, saying it “should not have annulled Hamas’ retention on the European list of terrorist organizations”.
The lower court sparked outrage in Israel and Washington when it said Hamas should be dropped from the list because the EU had made the decision based on information from the media and internet.
But the Luxembourg-based ECJ said that in doing so, the General Court had “made an error in law” and it would now have to examine the case again.
The Hamas ruling came as a surprise since once of the ECJ’s senior lawyers had said in an opinion last September that Hamas should not have been included on the terror list because procedural mistakes invalidated the EU decision.
The court rarely rules against the advice of its top lawyers and there had been concerns that if the ECJ agreed with the General Court, then already tense EU-Israel relations would have been hit again.
The EU originally listed Hamas as a terror group in 2001, a move that froze assets of the organization in the European Union.
Hamas slammed the sanctions, arguing that it is a legally elected government and therefore has the right to conduct military operations against Israel.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and fought three wars with Israel, the last in 2014.