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Take Hamas off 'terrorist' list, says top EU lawyer

Advocate general of the European Court of Justice says current designation is based on 'information from the internet'
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal flanked by bodyguards in Jordan earlier this month (AFP)

A top EU lawyer on Thursday said the Hamas movement - as well as Sri Lankan rebel group the Tamil Tigers - should be taken off the bloc's list of "terrorist" organisations because procedural mistakes invalidated the decision to put them on it.

The European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes against Hamas and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) under 2001 rules. The groups subsequently contested being kept on the bloc's terrorist blacklist.

The General Court, second to the European Court of Justice, found in their favour in 2014 on the grounds the EU had based its decision on publicly available information, not on a finding by a competent authority.

The European Council of the 28 member states in turn appealed that finding.

Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston of the ECJ on Thursday said the EU "cannot rely on facts and evidence found in press articles and information from the internet, rather than in decisions of competent authorities, to support a decision to maintain a listing."

Given that "some of the reasons advanced could not justify the decision to maintain the listing of LTTE and Hamas," the General Court was correct to dismiss the EU appeal when it could find no other sufficient reasons for their listing.

Accordingly, the ECJ "should annul the measures maintaining Hamas and LTTE on the EU list of terrorist organisations on procedural grounds."

Advocates general of the ECJ are regularly called on to give their view on a case before a final ruling, and in most instances their opinions are followed.

Officials said they could not comment on Sharpston's opinion and would wait until the final ruling in the case.

For the moment, nothing is changed and Hamas and LTTE remain listed.