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THE TIMES has been forced to apologise and pay damages of £30,000 over a defamatory article that the complainant said showed hostility towards Muslim activists.
The newspaper also paid the legal costs of the Cage organisation and its outreach director Moazzam Begg over the story published in June, which was online for less than 24 hours before being pulled.
The Times had wrongly suggested that Cage – which aims “to empower communities impacted by the war on terror” – and Mr Begg were supporting a man who had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the Reading knife attack on June 20 this year, in which three men were murdered.
The newspaper suggested that, by referring to failings by the police and others, they were excusing the actions of the man, who pleaded guilty last month to three murders and three attempted murders. He is due to be sentenced next week.
The Times’s apology states: “We also wrongly stated that they refused to comment on their involvement with the suspect.”
Behind a paywall, the apology continues: “In fact, while they commented on police and media reaction to the attack, they had no involvement with the suspect.
“We apologise to Cage and Mr Begg for these errors and for the distress caused and we have agreed to pay them damages and legal costs.”
Cage said that it will use the £30,000 to “expose state-sponsored Islamophobia and those complicit with it in the press.”
It added: “The Murdoch press empire has actively supported xenophobic elements and undermined principles of open society and accountability.
“We will continue to shine a light on war criminals and torture apologists and press barons who fan the flames of hate.”
When contacted by the Morning Star, the Times declined to comment further or respond to the accusations of Islamophobia.
Mr Begg said: “Over the years, Muslims in Britain have become accustomed to reading sensationalist and defamatory headlines in popular newspapers.
“The aim of these stories appear to be twofold: firstly, to perpetuate a narrative that demonises Muslims who seek justice and accountability from the state; and, secondly, to make huge profits in the process.
“This will not be the last time the Times uses its pages to generate more hostility towards Muslim activists.
“We can only hope that this settlement serves as a reminder to others that the truth is not negotiable.”
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