Journalist accused of 7/7 links wins £175k

A 25-year-old investigative journalist who has worked for the BBC has been awarded the highest libel award this year at the Royal Courts of Justice after a Kosovan newspaper wrongly accused him of being a terrorist.

Muhamed Veliu, an Albanian-born journalist, was awarded £175,000 in damages after an 11-month battle against the Bota Sot newspaper, which alleged that he was a bogus asylum seeker linked to the 7/7 bombers.

Veliu told Press Gazette: "This sends a clear message to people that I do not have any connection to terrorism, and refutes the accusation by Bota Sot who were aiming to destroy my career, which I have spent five years trying to build up."

Speaking before the trial, Veliu told Press Gazette that he considered the article, entitled "Scandal at the Albanian Embassy", an "open invitation for revenge" for the criminals he had exposed.

Delivering his judgment earlier this week, Mr Justice Eady said that the allegation made against Veliu was "one of the gravest imaginable".

He added: "It should be made clear that the allegations were published without any apparent investigation into them at all, or any prior contact with him, and there has never been any suggestion that the story was true."

Veliu said he was the latest in a long line of journalists to have been accused by Bota Sot, adding that the temporary media commissioner in Albania, appointed by the United Nations, had upheld violations of the country's Print Code of Conduct on 16 occasions.

Veliu said he had received phone calls of support from Albanian journalists all over the world. In Albania itself, the case had aroused huge interest, as it was the first time that an Albanian newspaper had faced trial in the UK.

Veliu's lawyer at Carter Ruck, Hannah Basha, told Press Gazette: "We took action against the Bota Sot, a newspaper published out of Kosovo, but also circulated in the UK, so we sued only on the publications in the UK."

Veliu, who is the London correspondent for newspapers in Albania and Kosovo, was granted humanitarian protection and exceptional leave to remain in the UK until 2007 after his investigations helped to expose Albanian criminals.

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