Journalist takes Albanian 'scandal sheet' to court

Hearing due at High Court in London after Albanian reporter claims newspaper was 'highly irresponsible'

An Albanian journalist who has worked on undercover investigations for the BBC and ITV was in court this week over allegations by an Albanian newspaper that he was a bogus asylum seeker linked to the 7/7 bombers.

The article, entitled "Scandal at the Albanian Embassy", was published by Bota Sot shortly after the London bombings and led the US embassy in Albania to investigate the claims.

It alleged that Muhamed Veliu, 25, invited London bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, to the Albanian Embassy and arranged a private meeting with the Albanian ambassador, Kastriot Roshi — all claims that Veliu strongly denies.

Veliu said: "It is highly irresponsible for Bota Sot to say that I have been

involved in assisting the authorities in the UK by informing on Albanian criminals together with an allegation that I deceived the UK authorities into granting me a residence permit.

"I consider this article an open invitation for revenge to criminals I have exposed."

Veliu, who is also the London correspondent for newspapers in Albania and Kosovo, was granted humanitarian protection and exceptional leave to remain in the UK until 2007 as a result of television investigations in which he helped to expose Albanian criminals.

The investigations included BBC1's McIntyre Investigates — where he infiltrated a people-trafficking gang to expose the fact that they were selling prostitutes — and a Panorama docu-

mentary where he helped expose criminals who were forging documents to assist asylum seekers.

He is pursuing legal action in the UK as he said Bota Sot has a substantial circulation and readership in many areas of London and other parts of the country where there are Kosovan and Albanian communities.

According to Veliu, Bota Sot is regarded in Albania as a "scandal sheet". The Temporary Media Commission, an agency set up by the United Nations to promote ethical standards in Kosovo's media, has levied fines on Bota Sot on several occasions for "vigilante journalism".

He said that the only explanation for the article was to discredit and damage his reputation as a journalist, as he

worked for a publication that is a political and commercial rival to Bota Sot.

Veliu claims "his professional and personal reputation has been ruined and he has suffered great distress and embarrassment". A libel trial was due to start at the High Court, London, on Thursday and Veliu was being represented by Carter-Ruck.

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