The European Union’s top court has ruled that the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, should remain on the EU terrorism blacklist.
The EU originally listed the organisation as a terror group in 2001 in a move that froze its assets within the member states.
The decision was annulled on procedural grounds by an EU court in 2014, however, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to maintain asset freezes and travel bans on Hamas. That court found the listing was based on media and internet reports rather than solid legal arguments, sparking outrage in Israel and Washington.
Following an appeal by Brussels, the European court of justice said on Wednesday the annulment by the lower court was wrong and must be reconsidered.
The Luxembourg court ruled that a decision by a competent authority was only required for an initial listing, with no such condition for subsequent retention.
The US classifies Hamas as a terrorist organisation, although in the UK it is not banned in its entirety. The Home Office’s list of proscribed groups only includes its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, for their "aims to end Israeli occupation in Palestine and establish an Islamic State”.
Hamas opposed the sanctions from the start, arguing it was a legally elected government and therefore had 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 which caused massive destruction and left more than 2,000 dead.