Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 12:54 UK

Icelandic anger at UK terror move

Icelanders protesting against use of terror legislation
Iceland has a population of 300,000, about 40,000 people have signed

Thousands of Icelanders are sending a message to Gordon Brown that they are not terrorists after the UK used terror laws to freeze their assets.

An online petition was launched this week following the UK government's attempt to protect British savings in Iceland's failed Landsbanki.

The petition has been signed by about 40,000 people and shows Icelanders with signs saying they are not terrorists.

The Treasury said Iceland was in no way considered to be a terrorist regime.

Implied slur

Signatories to the petition have uploaded wry photographs of themselves in an attempt to show the absurdity of categorising an Icelandic bank as a terrorist organisation.

The photographs show ordinary Icelanders - including a fisherman, a baby and a man in a Father Christmas costume - holding up hand-written signs stating: "Mr, Brown, we are not terrorists."

But despite the light-hearted tone of their protest, Icelanders are furious by what they see as the high-handed actions of the UK government, its implied slur on their national character and the dire consequences for the Icelandic economy.

Did they realise the economic impact on ordinary people of using this legislation?
Magnus Arni Skulason

One of the founders of the site is Magnus Arni Skulason, an economist from Reykjavik.

He told BBC news: "Our message to the British government is that we think they unjustifiably used the anti-terrorist legislation against Iceland.

"I was quite shocked when I saw it in the Financial Times that anti-terror laws were being used against Iceland, because we are the only EU nation in that group. We are in good company - with Al Qaeda.

"You are labelling a whole nation and actually what has happened is that other companies, such as in the US, are reluctant to do business with Iceland.

"[They say] 'Even though we know you are not terrorists, you are on this list so we can't take the risk.'"

Public support

Mr Skulason added: "Did they realise the economic impact on ordinary people of using this legislation?"

Mr Skulason, 39, said he was heartened when he saw the online petition take off from six founder members to more than 40,000 signatories.

"The main aim of the website is to bridge understanding between the British and Icelandic public," he said.

A Treasury spokesman said the government did not consider Iceland or its banks as terror regimes.

He told BBC News: "The government froze the assets of Landsbanki in the UK as a precautionary measure to ensure UK creditors are treated fairly.

Icelander protesting against use of terror legislation
Public enemy number one is the UK prime minister

"The order was made under a power contained in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, however it was not taken on the basis of the anti-terrorism provisions in the Act.

"The Act includes a broad range of provisions and is not only about countering terrorism."

He rejected the assertion that Iceland's economic problems had been worsened by the UK government's actions.

He added: "We have to be clear that the difficulties began in Iceland and were the result of failures of Icelandic banks and our actions followed that."

Landsbanki was listed on the Treasury website as a proscribed regime alongside al Qaeda, the Sudan and Lebanon.

Shortly after the petition was launched, the bank was removed from the list and categorised under "asset freezing measures not related to terrorist or country-based financial sanctions".




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