January 24, 2018

European court overturns EU decision to add Iranian resistance movement to terror list

Associated Press
December 12, 2006

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Court of Justice on Tuesday overturned an EU decision to freeze the assets of the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran, an exiled Iranian resistance movement which is on the bloc’s terror blacklist.

The court’s ruling annuls a 2002 decision to freeze all European assets of the Paris-based group, also known by the acronym MEK. It was the first time an appeal to the EU’s terror list was successful at the Luxembourg-based EU court.

EU legal officials stressed that EU governments would not immediately remove the exile group from their terror list, arguing they had to study the full 45-page ruling of the court before any decisions will be made.

“For the time being they are on the list,” said Jean-Claude Piris, legal counsel to the 25 EU governments. “But we have to examine it as soon as possible.”

EU governments said in a statement that the court’s ruling did not call into question the EU’s anti-terror list, which includes top terror groups and suspects like Osama bin Laden, Palestinian group Hamas, and al-Qaida. It added that the judgment also did not call into question a decision by EU governments that the Mujahadeen is a terrorist organization.

“This case was annulled because of procedure,” said Piris.

The U.S. also lists the group as a terrorist organization. But the group, founded by students at Tehran University in the 1960s, insists it advocates the overthrow of Iran’s hard-line clerical regime in Tehran by peaceful means.

In its ruling, the court said the group was not given a fair hearing to defend itself against the move to blacklist it.

“Certain fundamental rights and safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing, the obligation to state reasons and the right to effective judicial protection are, as a matter of principle, fully applicable,” the court said in a statement.

The court ruling said there was “a distinction” between Mujahadeen’s appeal to the EU court and previous cases filed with the Luxembourg-based court to have names removed from the list.

The EU court last July dismissed requests by two terror suspects to annul the bloc’s moves to freeze their assets under a U.N. anti-terror order. The court said the exiled Iranian group was added to the list under EU law, and not under a U.N. order, as with the others, so EU governments are “bound to observe” fundamental rights under EU law.

Piris said the ruling would likely force a change in how EU governments add groups or persons to the list, suggesting that rules include informing those suspects after they have been added to the list, so they can exercise their right to appeal the decision at the EU’s high court.

The list, set up after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and which was last updated in May, is done in secret by a special committee of security representatives from each member state.

The blacklist currently contains 45 people and 48 groups or entities believed to be involved in terrorist activities.

Reacting to the court’s decision, Iranian resistance leader Maryam Rajavi called for the immediate lifting of all restrictions on the organization and described the ruling as “proof of the resistance’s legitimacy over the religious fascism in Iran and victory of justice over economic interests.”

“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 in a statement issued in Paris.