Express pays 'substantial damages' after Al Qaeda slur

The Express newspaper has paid “substantial damages” and apologised to the trustees of a charity at the High Court this morning after incorrectly linking their organisation to an Al Qaeda commander.

Idris Atcha, Mohammed Idris, Zaker Patel and Muhammad Ahmad Seedat took legal action against the newspaper after it published a story headed ‘Jet Bomb Ordered by 9/11 Spiritual Leader’on its website on 27 December, linking their charity, the Ummah Welfare Trust, to Anwar al Awlaki.

Representing the trustees, Luke Staiano, of London law firm Carter Ruck, told Justice Eady that al Awlaki is regarded as the “spiritual leader” of those responsible for the 11 September attack and “apparently ordered the attempt to blow up an aeroplane over the US on Christmas Day 2009”.

He said the article claimed that al Awlaki was one of the “favourite speakers” of the charity, which organises emergency relief for developing countries.

Staiano said: “The charity does not have any connections with Anwar al Awlaki and the claimants have never met him and do not support or condone his extremist views or objectives…

“The article alleged that the charity accepted donations from the Islamic society of University College London in order to advance an extremist and terrorist agenda of the kind supported by Anwar al Awlaki.

“While the charity has accepted donations from the UCL Islamic Society, as with every donation received by the charity, these donations were applied by the claimants to relief work of an entirely charitable nature and were not accepted in furtherance of any extremist or terrorist agenda.”

Staiano said the article also alleged that the charity has aided the cause of terrorism through connections to Hamas.

He added: “The charity has never funded nor had any links with Hamas or any other terrorist organisation. The same applies to the claimants. The aid distributed by the charity and the claimants has always been applied to wholly charitable purposes.”

Staiano told the court that Express Newspapers, publisher of the Express, now accepted that the allegations were false and should not have been published.

He said: “As a mark of regret, the defendant [Express] has agreed to pay the claimants a substantial sum in damages, which the claimants propose to apply to the charity’s funds.”

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