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Prominent Palestinian wins legal battle over ‘terrorism’ listing

22nd Feb 2019
Prominent Palestinian wins legal battle over ‘terrorism’ listing

(Centre) Majed al-Zeer, Chair of Palestinian Return Center (Photo: PRC)

Hamed Chapman

A prominent Palestinian activist has won a two-year legal battle over his listing on the World-Check financial database that should have repercussions for many governments that try to smear their political opponents as terrorists

In a settlement at the High Court in London this month, World-Check, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters, was forced to pay compensation and offer an apology to Majed al-Zeer, Chairman of the UN-recognised Palestinian Return Center (PRC), as well as remove him from the ‘terrorism’ category’ it listed him under.

Zeer, a British citizen, said the designation had played a crucial role in the closure of three bank accounts belonging to him and the PRC between 2009 and 2015.
He said he had been a “victim of an organised campaign waged by Israel and its spin machine of propaganda and false information” and described the ruling as a “historic moment” for the Palestinian cause.

“It’s the starting point for anyone who is Palestinian or who works for Palestine to start chasing up World-Check for their false information, which has been spread everywhere to stop Palestine becoming free and Palestinians claiming their rights,” he said.

“The curtailment of our banking facilities severely hindered our ability to operate and live and we were unable to penetrate the cloak of secrecy surrounding World-Check and their relationship with the banks.”

The classification that tried to link him with terrorism was thought to have been politically motivated by Israel and is believed to be a common tool it uses to try to discredit so many Palestinians seeking to stand up for their basic rights.

Labour MP Andy Slaughter, Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Britain-Palestine, described the ruling as a “significant victory for the Palestinian Return Center in challenging those who blindly adopt such labels and become vehicles for propaganda.”

“Labelling organisations as a terrorist or otherwise restricting them just because they are critical of Israel’s policy or are promoting the rights of Palestinians is undemocratic and highly prejudicial,” Slaughter said.

Former Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, also welcomed the decision, saying it was “pleasing to see justice at least partly done” as the difficulty of representing Palestinian interests when they are under occupation cannot be overestimated.

“This is a small step in correcting the record so Palestinian humanitarian organisations and their members can do the work needed to address the human consequences of continuing illegal occupation,” Blunt said.

PRC’s solicitor, Dr Farooq Bajwa, welcomed Al-Zeer’s vindication.

He told The Muslim News, “Lawyers around the world are discovering that non-violent perfectly legitimate and very often well-meaning individuals and organisations are being blacklisted for purely political reasons. We would ask governments around the world to stop abusing the power of secret databases in order to stop legitimate and peaceful political work.”

World-Check supplies private information on potential clients for corporations, businesses and even governmental agencies, such as police and immigration. With more than 4,500 clients including 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks and 200 law enforcement and regulatory agencies,

Peter Oborne, former chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph who writes for Middle East Eye, had no doubts about the significance of the legal victory, saying that World-Check “should take a great deal more care over accepting politically motivated classifications.”
“Israel and a number of other countries have been abusing the system and this needs to be challenged,” said Oborne.

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