November 18, 2017

Court ruling forces rethink of EU terror list by Lorne Cook

Agence France Presse
December 12, 2006
by Lorne Cook

A European court has annulled an EU decision to freeze the assets of the main Iranian opposition in exile, a move that will force the bloc to rethink the way it compiles its terror blacklist.

The Court of First Instance, Europe’s second-highest tribunal, ruled that the EU had not respected the right to a fair hearing of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (OMPI), when it ordered the asset freeze in May 2002.

The EU’s decision was based on measures implemented to respect a UN Security Council resolution drawn up in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks which demanded that countries crack down on terror funding.

The immediate effects of the 45-page ruling were unclear but legal experts acknowledged that it could incite others on the terror list, which includes the Palestinian governing party Hamas, to contest such action against them.

OMPI welcomed it Tuesday as “a victory of justice” but the EU’s top legal counsel said it was merely a “judicial victory of principle” based on a procedural problem and in no way exonerated the Iranian opposition group.

“This organisation was not put on the list because of some flight of fancy of an isolated EU member. It was decided unanimously by all 25 countries. It was based on facts. We have facts,” said legal counsel Jean-Claude Piris.

The Luxembourg-based court found that “the decision ordering the freezing of the OMPI’s funds does not contain a sufficient statement of reasons and that it was adopted in the course of a procedure during which the right of the party concerned to a fair hearing was not observed, and that it is not in a position to review the lawfulness of that position.”

“Accordingly that decision must be annulled in so far as it concerns the OMPI,” it said in a statement.

Founded in 1965 with the aim of replacing first the Shah and then the clerical regime in Iran, OMPI has in the past operated an army inside Iran.

It was the armed wing the France-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) but it renounced violence in June 2001.

Exiled Iran opposition leader Maryam Rajavi — who has residency in France, regularly visits Brussels and despite the ban has been tolerated by the European authorities — welcomed the court’s decision.

“Today one of the highest judicial authorities in Europe confirmed the Iranian resistance’s claim that the terrorist label from the beginning was a political issue which was meant to appease the mullahs,” she said.

“All restrictions resulting from the terror tag should be removed from the Iranian resistance immediately,” she said in a statement read to AFP by a Brussels-based spokesman.

The group said the decision was “proof of the resistance’s legitimacy over the religious fascism in Iran and a victory of justice over economic interests.”

The court’s decision refers to a black list in force when the Iranian group launched its legal challenge in 2005, and which is now outdated.

The terror register, of more than 50 organisations and individuals, including the armed Basque separatist group ETA and the Tamil Tigers, is revised every six months.

Therefore despite the ruling the OMPI formally remains on the EU’s terror list.

In a fact sheet sent to journalists, the European Council — representing the 25 member countries — acknowledged the court’s decision, although it did not rule out an appeal.

It also said that it had begun to improve the way the list is compiled.

“We are going to try and find a way to give the people who are involved the opportunity to give their arguments in some way or another,” Piris said.

“I’m not exactly sure how,” he added.