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UK's largest Palestine group removed from global 'terrorism list'

Palestine Solidarity Campaign had accounts frozen in 2015 after being added to 'World-Check' list due to claims on right-wing blogs
Thousands attended marches organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in 2014 (AFP)

The UK's largest Palestinian rights group has been removed from a non-governmental "terrorism" watch list that led to its bank accounts being closed by leading financial institutions.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said its lawyers had successfully fought to have the group and its chairman, Hugh Lanning, taken off World-Check list, to which it had been added in 2015 based on what it said were "smears" and false claims of links to terrorism.

The World-Check database, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters, apologised to the group and said that it should never have been included on the database, according to lawyers representing the PSC. 

Global financial institutions use World-Check to risk assess individuals who use or intend to use their services. However, several British organisations and individuals have successfully fought inclusion, citing "unfounded allegations" and lack of evidence.

Lanning said he believed his inclusion was partly influenced by smears from "the Israeli government and its supporters".

"I hope the government and their supporters follow this good example and stop repeating unfounded smears about the PSC and its members," he said.

"We expect the media to take note of the vindication and rethink printing smears made without qualification, as was done following my deportation from Israel.

"I am pleased that World-Check agreed it was wrong to include my name in the database as there are no grounds for me being associated with terrorism."

Ravi Naik, who represented PSC, said the group "should not have been on the database" and that it was put on the list based on "unfounded allegations".

They added: "Our clients maintain that they do not present any financial risk and the agreement reached between them and World-Check regarding the profile has vindicated this position.”

In a statement to Middle East Eye, Thomson Reuters said that all its profiles on World-Check are reviewed on an ongoing basis and that it will take action to ensure "their complete accuracy".

"A clear privacy statement online sets out our commitment and our obligations to the regulatory authorities," the statement said. "It also explains how to contact us in order to review a profile or discuss its amendment. We investigate all such requests fully and would urge anyone with concerns to contact us." 

No immediate reason, however, was given as to why the PSC was put on the list. An investigation by VICE News suggested the organisation was accused of links with terrorists by right-wing blogs based in America. 

Each terrorism profile compiled by Thomson Reuters includes a list of the sources of information used by World-Check when compiling the profile.

World-Check's literature explains that as well as listing sanctioned and convicted individuals, it lists individuals "facing charges, but not yet convicted".

Those include including anyone "accused, investigated, arrested, charged, indicted, detained, questioned or on trial" for World-Check listed crimes. 

The listed crimes include terrorism, hostage-taking, slave labour and sexual exploitation of children.

Other organisations such as rights group CAGE and numerous Muslim organisations in Britain have had their bank accounts shut down after being arbitrarily placed on the World-Check database. 

Earlier this year, the Finsbury Park mosque in north London won damages from the organisation of £10,000, after it had been placed on the list for allegedly having links with terrorist activities. 

The mosque had its bank accounts frozen without any reason being given. 

In a statement to MEE after the Finsbury Park decision, Thomson Reuters said that World-Check was based on sanctions data from official bodies and "reliable and reputable public domain sources".

"We also provide secondary identifying information on individuals, such as dates and place of birth, and this will be similarly verified with reputable and official sources," it said.

"If blog content appears, it is only as a supporting source for that secondary information, and we make that clear."

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