Prominent Palestinian activist wins legal battle over ‘terrorism’ database
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Prominent Palestinian activist wins legal battle over ‘terrorism’ database

In a settlement announced on Monday at the high court in London, Majed al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Center (PRC) -- which is recognized by the UN for campaigning for the Palestinian refugees’ right of return -- was removed from the “terrorism” category and paid $13,000 in damages plus legal fees. According to lawyers representing al-Zeer, he had been added to World-Check, the financial intelligence service owned by Thomson Reuters, because of a “politically motivated” proscription by the Israeli regime. Zeer, who is also a British citizen, told the Middle East Eye news portal on Monday, “For the Palestinian cause, this is a historic moment.” “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.  Zeer 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. “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,” he said. In comments to Al Jazeera, Zeer said, “World-Check has been a bad tool for governments to hammer people who are just trying to say the truth about their illegal activities.” “Israel has used all means - whether moral or immoral, legal and illegal - to deprive Palestinians of even a narrow space to shout,” he added. Farooq Bajwa, a solicitor representing Zeer, argued that Israel’s “use of these databases is sinister and has far-reaching consequences for the people whom they name.” “It has almost become another form of legal warfare or coercion to put people on these lists without any real justification in many cases. We believe the PRC case is a prime example of this,” he said. ‘Significant victory’ British Labour MP Andy Slaughter, the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on Britain-Palestine, who has spoken at PRC events, described the Monday ruling as a “significant victory for the Palestinian Return Center in challenging those who blindly adopt such labels and become vehicles for propaganda.” He said that “labeling organizations as 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.” Conservative MP Crispin Blunt also said, “It’s pleasing to see justice at least partly done. The difficulty of representing Palestinian interests when they are under occupation supported by an alliance that includes the world’s most powerful interests cannot be overestimated.” “This is a small step in correcting the record so Palestinian humanitarian organizations and their members can do the work needed to address the human consequences of continuing illegal occupation,” Blunt said.

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