Former college head sues Mail on Sunday over 'Ayatollah of the RAF' story

The former Dean of RAF College Cranwell is suing Mail on Sunday publisher Associated Newspapers for libel over a story branding him the “Ayatollah of the RAF”.

Dr Joel Hayward has instructed lawyers Carter-Ruck to sue over an August 2011 story in the Mail on Sunday headed “Ayatollah of the RAF: Academic chief of RAF's 'university' is Muslim convert who has criticised NATO air strikes in Libya, claimed Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and compared Churchill to Mohammed”.

Hayward, who was dean until December 2007, is also taking libel action over an online version of the story that appeared on Mail Online and a follow-up piece in the Daily Mail.

A spokesman for the MoS told Press Gazette the paper stands by its story.

In a claim lodged at the High Court, Hayward says the story accused him of acting like an “Ayatollah” by giving Muslim cadets preferential treatment and making other students take a “softly, softly line when writing about Muslim terrorists or Islamic extremists”.

The MoS article suggested this was contrary to the fundamental obligations of impartiality and fairness imposed on Hayward as a teacher in the RAF.

The writ says the articles have gravely damaged his character and reputation and cause him to suffer considerable distress and embarrassment.

The Mail on Sunday removed the story from its website in August 2012, the “sting of the allegations”, says Hayward, have been republished repeatedly across the internet, with websites describing him as a Holocaust denier and a Muslim convert.

One site expressed concern that his views and behaviour had caused disquiet among senior officers at RAF Cranwell, where he was the most senior academic and taught Prince William.

Seeking a High Court injunction to stop any repeat of these libels the write also seeks unlimited damages and aggravated damages for his distress, embarrassment and loss of reputation.

 “We stand by our story," said an MoS spokesman. "Our lawyers are presently drafting the defence which will be issued shortly."

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