The European Court of Justice has declared the Palestinian resistance group Hamas a terrorist organisation.
The European Union’s highest court ruled that the group should remain on an EU blacklist and referred the case back to a lower court.
The decision followed the end of a long court battle to challenge Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation, after a previous ruling in 2014 when a lower court invalidated the 2001 designation and suggested sanctions on the group to be lifted.
General Court judges accepted arguments at the time that the EU’s decision was based on “second-hand information from the internet and press” rather than an independent investigation, but the finding was appealed by the European Council.
A spokesperson for the ECJ said judges can designate groups if “there is an ongoing risk of that person or entity being involved in the terrorist activities,” and that it was not legally binding on the Council of the EU to carry out its own investigation.
A statement said: “The ECJ therefore sets aside the 2014 judgment of the General Court.
“It refers the case back to the General Court so that the latter may examine the facts and arguments on which it did not rule in its 2014 judgement.”
The US has classified Hamas as a terrorist group but in the UK the group is not entirely banned.
The Home Office’s has proscribed Hamas’ military wing, the “Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades” for their “aims to end Israeli occupation in Palestine and establish an Islamic State”.
Hamas, which is the democratically elected government in the besieged Gaza Strip, has experienced widespread travel bans and asset freezes since 2001.
It has opposed sanctions and argued it has a legitimate right to conduct military operations, but senior leaders regularly praise “martyrs” who launch terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Hamas’ founding charter called for the liberation of all Palestinian land, which includes the entirety of Israel, but a new charter issued in May stated it would accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.