Community leader sues Newsnight over 7/7 fraud claim

Leeds community leader Hanif Malik has begun libel proceedings in the High Court against the BBC in a row over Newsnight on BBC Two.

Malik is demanding damages of £100,000 from the BBC over a lead story on a Newsnight programme broadcast in August, called: ‘The BBC’s Children in Need charity and the 7/7 bombers”.

He said the story claimed that he, through a charitable body he led, was responsible for fraudulently and improperly diverting money provided by Children in Need for educating disadvantaged children to Islamic extremists.

According to the High Court writ, the story also alleged that the money was used to produce radical Islamist propaganda and to give financial support to some of the men later responsible for the terrorist bombings in London on 7 July 2005.

Malik said his character and reputation had been seriously damaged, and that he had suffered considerable distress, embarrassment, anxiety, and injury to his feelings.

Malik is also seeking aggravated damages, saying the allegations were extremely serious and highly damaging, given his high profile in Leeds, and his prominent role in multi-faith and community initiatives before and after the bombings.

He accused the BBC of failing to carry out any proper checks before broadcasting the allegations, and said one of its chief sources could not be relied.

In his writ, Malik accused the BBC of failing to give him any chance to reply to the allegations, although he said journalist Richard Watson left a message saying he would like to ask questions about funding.

Malik said there was nothing to suggest the story concerned Leeds Community School or terrorism, and he saw no reason to respond to the message, and he did not do so.

Neither Watson nor anyone else from the BBC made any attempt to put the allegations to him, he claimed.

Malik argued that there was no urgency to publish the story, and that the BBC had no reason for not carrying out proper checks or giving him a proper opportunity to respond before the story was broadcast.

He is also seeking an injunction banning repetition of the allegations against him.

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