A mechanic accused of being the financier of an Islamic cell responsible for channelling funds to banned terrorist organisations today won £100,000 in libel damages and an apology from the News of the World.
Shakil Akhtar, from High Wycombe, sued the News Group newspaper after it published a double-page spread on February 3, 2008, headlined “Evil on benefits”.
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The article alleged Akhtar was “a central figure in a dangerous and militant Islamic cell” in which he was responsible for channelling funds to organisations to pay for weapons to be used against British forces in Afghanistan.
Acting for Akhtar, Edward Yell, told the High Court today the paper then passed a dossier of “supposed evidence” to Thames Valley Police who later raided Akhtar’s home.
Yell, of London law firm Carter-Ruck, said the allegations had been seized upon by elements of the far-right despite Akhtar never having been arrested or charged over this or any other offence.
“The truth of the matter, which the News of the World now accepts, is that Mr Akhtar is not and never has been involved in the funding of terrorism in any way whatsoever, and nor is he or has ever been a member of a militant cell.
“The News of the World now accepts that he has no connection with terrorism whatsoever and in fact earns his living honestly as a car mechanic in High Wycombe.
The News of the World has agreed to pay compensation of £100,000 plus legal costs and to publish an apology in this Sunday’s edition of the paper.
Yell added: “Mr Akhtar would like to make it clear that he does not support or condone violence against British forces in Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere.
“Mr Akhtar and his family have been caused great hurt, distress and fear by the baseless allegations which were made against him by the News of the World.
“He is a devout Muslim and his standing in the local community has been badly affected by the article and we take the opportunity to reassure his friends and neighbours that there was no truth in these allegations.”