A European court has ruled that the Palestinian militant group Hamas must be removed from a European Union list of designated terror groups.
The General Court of the European Union said Wednesday that the EU improperly included Hamas on the basis of information it got from the media and the Internet.
An EU measure in 2001 also added 12 other groups and 29 individuals to the list, but said they could only be designated terrorists based on "acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities."
The ruling is open for appeal. Appeals, which can only be based on points of law, typically last about a year and a half.
Hamas welcomed Wednesday's verdict.
“The decision is a correction of a historical mistake the European Union had made,” Deputy Hamas chief Moussa Abu Marzouk told Reuters. “Hamas is a resistance movement and it has a natural right according to all international laws and standards to resist the occupation."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced dismay.
“We expect them to immediately put Hamas back on the list,” he said in a statement.
The court said the asset freezes that came with Hamas being on the terror list will remain in place for three months or until the appeals process is exhausted. That decision was made to ensure that the freezes would remain effective if they were to be reinstated.
The court also stressed in a statement that the ruling was procedural and "does not imply any substantive assessment" of whether Hamas carries out actions that define a terrorist group.
The EU's ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen told Israel's Army Radio the body aimed to keep Hamas on the list.
“Sometimes the courts come to decisions which surprise us. We need to assemble a stronger case for the listing and this is what we are going to do,” Faaborg-Andersen said.
Wednesday's judgement came as the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution supporting Palestinian statehood. The motion says the parliament supports "in principle a recognition of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution and believes they should go hand in ahand with the development of peace talks which should be advanced".
Some material for this report came from Reuters.