The European Union's top court on Thursday quashed an asset freeze on one of Iran's largest banks, arguing that the EU had not provided enough evidence to justify the nuclear-related restrictive measure.
The EU hit Iranian citizens and businesses with a slew of sanctions during the years in a bid to pressure Tehran into curtailing its nuclear programme. Many of the sanctions were lifted last month after Iran and the West struck a deal scaling down the programme.
The asset freeze on Bank Mellat had been issued in July 2010, with the EU accusing the lender of engaging "in a pattern of conduct which supports and facilitates Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes."
But the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that this justification was not detailed enough and dismissed an argument by EU governments that providing more evidence would endanger confidential sources.
"That argument was relied on for the first time at the stage of appeal and is therefore inadmissible," the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.
The EU judges also rejected the argument that Mellat was the parent bank of an export company that had been blacklisted by the United Nations, saying that it was presented with no evidence "to determine whether that reason was well founded."