Associated Newspapers pays 'substantial' libel damages professor it branded 'Ayatollah of the RAF'

The former Dean of RAF College Cranwell has won ‘substantial’ libel damages from the Mail on Sunday over as story which branded him the “Ayatollah of the RAF”.

He filed a libel claim last year about the August 2011 story which said he was a “Muslim convert who has criticised NATO air strikes in Libya, claimed Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and compared Churchill to Mohammed”.

He also sued over an online version of the piece and over a follow-up article in the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail has agreed to pay legal costs and published an apology which said: “On 7 and 8 August 2011 we suggested that the beliefs of Dr Joel Hayward, then the Dean of the RAF College Cranwell, prevented him from fulfilling his duty of impartiality and fairness as a teacher in the RAF by causing him to show undue favouritism to Islamic students and spend too much time on Islamic activities. We now accept that these allegations are untrue.  We apologise to Dr Hayward and have paid a substantial sum to him in damages.”

The Daily Star last year published an apology over similar allegations.

Professor Hayward said: “It was completely devastating for me to read the false allegations that were published by Associated Newspapers and by the Daily Star, and to be attacked for my deeply-held religious beliefs. It was even more devastating to know that my family, friends and colleagues had read them.

“Although the matter was dragged out for over a year by Associated Newspapers, which I often felt was using its financial muscle to intimidate me, I am hugely relieved and pleased that they have now done the right thing and settled the case by apologising, and paying me damages and costs.

“More generally, I can only hope that my case and others like it may result in a more balanced and fair portrayal of Muslims and the Islamic faith in certain sections of the British press in future.”

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