(CN) - The European Court of Justice on Thursday canceled the EU Council's asset freeze of Iran's Bank Mellat, finding insufficient evidence the bank had funded Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The EU high court's ruling mirrors one handed down by a lower court in 2013.
EU lawmakers blacklisted Bank Mellat in 2010, on grounds that the bank "engages in a pattern of conduct which supports and facilitates Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs." The council noted that Mellat owned First East Export, which the United Nations had targeted for an asset freeze through a Security Council resolution.
But like the European General Court, the Luxembourg-based high court found lawmakers had not listed specific entities involved in Iran's nuclear program that received funding from Bank Mellat. It also rejected the EU Council's argument that security interests barred naming anyone, since it was raised for the first time on appeal.
As for Bank Mellat being the parent company of First East Export, the court found in its 14-page opinion that the council produced no evidence to determine the validity of its reasoning. In fact, the court said that freezing Mellat's assets on the basis of freezing First East Export's assets when the latter was designated in a U.N. resolution because of the activities of the former amounted to a circular argument.
Although no doubt necessary for the official record, the ruling means little in reality since EU lawmakers thawed Bank Mellat's assets in January as part of the lifting of sanctions agreed to under the Iran nuclear deal in late 2015.
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