Global media is reporting that the EU court has ruled that the EU acted illegally when it froze the assets of the Al-Aqsa Foundation in the Netherlands. According to a report by the German Press Agency:
Luxembourg – The European Union acted illegally in freezing assets of the Dutch branch of a Palestinian charity allegedly linked to the Islamic group Hamas, the EU court ruled on Wednesday. In April 2003 the Netherlands imposed the measure on the Stichting al-Aqsa, the local branch of the al-Aqsa Foundation, on the grounds that its humanitarian fund-raising activities were actually benefiting terrorist groups in the Middle East. Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is classed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the United States. The Dutch action led the EU to place Stichting al-Aqsa on its terrorist “black list” in June 2003 and extend the asset freeze across the bloc. But judges said that since the original Dutch decision was repealed in August of the same year, the subsequent EU freeze was no longer legally justifiable. The EU’s “General Court finds that, since its repeal, neither the (Dutch sanctions order) nor the order on the application for interim measures … may validly serve as the basis for (an EU) measure freezing al-Aqsa’s funds,” the judges said in a statement. An EU court spokesman told the German Press Agency dpa the ruling meant EU states would either have to provide “better reasons” for keeping Stichting al-Aqsa on the “black list” or remove it. The United States imposed an asset freeze on the al-Aqsa Foundation in May 2003 after the US Treasury Department said it represented “a critical part of Hamas’ transnational terrorist support infrastructure.” At the time the US said the organization had branch offices in Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Pakistan, South Africa and Yemen, as well as in the Netherlands.
The Union of Good is a coalition of Islamic charities that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. It is headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, and most of the trustees and member organizations are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood. The Union of Good was banned by Israel in 2002 and was recently designated a terrorist entity by the United States, although neither Youssef Qaradawi nor any of the Trustees were similarly designated. Despite the fact that action has been taken against some of its member organizations in Europe, many of its other European member organizations continue to operate. Further, the Union of Good itself does not appear to be under investigation in Europe.
All branches of Al-Aqsa are designated by the U.S. as terrorist entities and the Union of Good was also recently designated. However, prosecution of the organization in Europe has been problematic. A post from February 2008 discussed the acquittal by a local court of the leaders Al-Aqsa Denmark on terrorism charges and in March of 2009, a local court acquitted the head of the al-Aqsa Foundation in Sweden on charges of funding terrorism. The Swedish and Danish prosecutions followed earlier actions by Germany and the Netherlands. According to another NEFA report:
In August 2002, the German government shut down Al-Aqsa in Germany, seizing money and documents during searches of the group’s offices. The German Interior MInister said at that time that Al-Aqsa raised money for suicide bombers and their families in Israel, and that it transferred funds to social and humanitarian organizations in the Palestinian territories that were connected to Hamas. German authorities reported telephone calls in which a Hamas “cadre” was requesting assistance from Mahmoud Amr following suicide bombings in Israel, as well as “numerous contacts” between Mr. Amr and presumed Hamas functionaries…..On April 9, 2003, the Ministry of Interior announced a freeze on all financial activities and assets of Al-Aqsa Netherlands stating that the organization was collecting money for Hamas and/or organizations related to Hamas that support or develop terrorist activities.
INTERPAL, the important U.K. Union of Good member, was just subject to the most stringent action to date by the U.K. Charity Commission who was ordered to sever its relationship with the Union. As a previous post discussed, the Commission failed to take even stronger action on grounds that it was unable verify the evidence detailing links between INTERPAL partner organizations and Hamas.
A 2009 Jamestown Foundation report discussed the difficulties in obtaining convictions in terrorist financing cases, citing the Danish and Swedish Al-Aqsa cases.