Britain's Supreme Court quashes sanctions against Iranian Bank Mellat

LONDON – Britain’s Supreme Court quashed sanctions against an Iranian bank penalized over its alleged links to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, saying Wednesday that Bank Mellat had been arbitrarily singled out.

Bank Mellat, a privately owned commercial bank, was seeking to overturn a 2009 order by the British Treasury barring it from operating in the country. That order, made under counterterrorism laws, shut the bank out of the British financial sector because it allegedly helped finance Tehran’s nuclear program.

The bank had denied the allegation and argued the order was unlawful, taking the case to the Supreme Court after failing to persuade Britain’s High Court and Court of Appeal to overturn the order.

Britain’s Supreme Court agreed, saying in a ruling Wednesday that the order was “arbitrary and irrational” and “disproportionate.”

The panel of justices also said in a separate but related judgment that it had been unnecessary for the court to hear some evidence in the case in secret.

The decision for Britain’s highest court to convene for the first time ever behind closed doors had sparked fierce criticism from anti-secrecy activists.

The justices said Wednesday there had been no point in hearing evidence in secret, because there was nothing said behind closed doors that would have impacted the court’s decision in the case.

Lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla, who represented Bank Mellat, called the ruling a victory for his client and “for the rule of law.”