updated 1/17/2007 12:06:51 PM ET 2007-01-17T17:06:51

A judge hearing an Islamic charity’s demand to be removed from the EU list of banned terrorist groups asked on Tuesday why it had not appealed against the Dutch court ruling that led to its being listed.

The Dutch office of the Al Aqsa Foundation, a group with alleged ties to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, argues that EU member states erred in not giving the reasons for their decision, depriving the group of a chance to defend itself.

At the European Court of Justice’s lower Court of First Instance, Al Aqsa’s lawyer said the ruling should be overturned for the same reason that the court last month annulled a decision to put an Iranian opposition group on the banned list.

“The right to a fair hearing has been violated,” Victor Koppe said at a hearing.

Savvas Papasavvas, one of three judges hearing the case, asked why Al Aqsa had not appealed against the original ruling by a Dutch court freezing Al Aqsa’s funds, on which the defense said the council of EU member states had based its decision.

“It does strike me as a bit odd, to tell you the truth ... that there was the possibility to appeal, but that it wasn’t done,” he said. “That doesn’t coincide with the thesis that ‘we did not know what this was all about.’”

Michael Bishop, representing the council of EU member states, said the council had not provided a detailed statement of reasons when placing the group on the banned list in 2003.

‘It must have been clear’
“But it must have been clear to them ... since they are advised by lawyers, what the basis for the council’s decision was.”

A lawyer for the Dutch government said the judge who made the original ruling concluded, on the basis of an intelligence file, that funds from the group were going to finance terrorist activities via Hamas.

“The right to a fair trial was guaranteed and an appeal against the freezing of funds was possible, but Al Aqsa did not take the opportunity,” Corinna Vissels said.

Al Aqsa describes itself as a social welfare institution trying to improve the social and living conditions of Palestinians. It states that it has no political affiliations.

Another judge at the hearing expressed doubt over whether the Dutch ruling made clear that Al Aqsa was aware that funds would be used for criminal activity. “As far as I know there is no reference to knowledge,” Nicholas Forwood said.

A decision on the case is expected later in the year.

Last month, the court annulled a decision to ban the Iranian opposition group People’s Mujahideen on the grounds that the group was not given adequate reasons or a fair hearing, raising questions about the EU’s way of proceeding against other alleged terrorist groups.

The EU Council’s Secretariat said member states would consider an appeal and whether to keep the group on the banned list by making the same decision based on correct procedures.

On Thursday, the court will rule on a challenge to the EU’s inclusion of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant separatist group in Turkey, on the list of terrorist organizations.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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