23rd Apr 2019

EU court annuls assets freeze for two terror list members

The EU's court of justice on Wednesday (11 July) overturned a decision by member states to freeze the assets of Philippine rebel leader Jose Maria Sison and the Al-Aqsa foundation, based in the Netherlands.

The Luxembourg-based court of first instance found that EU governments had breached the rights of both parties - who are both on the EU terror list - by not telling them why their assets had been frozen.

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It also found that they had not been given sufficient rights of defence or to effective judicial protection.

The court did not rule on whether the two should be completely removed from the list.

Mr Sison, now living in the Netherlands, was put on the terror list in October 2002. He was placed on the list as a member of the ''New People's Army,'' the armed wing of the Communist Party in the Philippines.

He argued that he has not been a member of the communist party since being imprisoned in the 1970s in the Philippines.

In June 2003 the Al-Aqsa was put on list. The foundation describes itself as an Islamic social welfare institution, and says it does not have any political links.

The Dutch government put the foundation's name forward to go on the list and freeze its assets arguing that transfers of funds were intended for organisations supporting terrorism in the Near East, in particular the Islamic movement Hamas – also on the EU's terror list.

The court decision is another blow to the standing of the bloc's terror list, established in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Last December the court asked EU governments to look into a 2002 decision on whether the People's Mujahadeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), a Paris-based Iranian opposition group, should be on the terror register and have its assets frozen.

The pressure caused by that court decision has led to some changes to the way the list is run, with all groups on the list now sent statements of reasoning.

But PMOI are suing the EU claiming the court decision means that it should be taken off the list altogether. The council, representing member states, argues it is complying with the ruling by sending PMOI information on why it is on the list.

The list is dominated by Islamic organisations such as Hamas, but also features the Kurdish PKK group, the Tamil Tigers, ETA and Colombian rebels FARC. It is supposed to be reviewed at least every six months.

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