Senior British Muslim Conservative party life peer Lord Sheikh has won his libel case against UK media company Associated Newspapers, regarding an article published in August 2018 accusing him of appearing at a “hate conference” held in Tunisia.
Lord Sheikh brought libel proceedings in respect of a 2018 Mail Online article, published under the by-line of its Associate Global Editor Jake Wallis Simons, headed: “EXCLUSIVE: Top Tory peer’s appearance at Corbyn’s ‘hate conference’ in Tunisia comes after YEARS of rubbing shoulders with Islamists, hate preachers and Holocaust deniers.”
The article focussed on Lord Sheikh’s attendance at a conference in Tunisia in 2014, where it had earlier been widely reported that Jeremy Corbyn had participated in a wreath-laying ceremony. The article accused Lord Sheikh of “rubbing shoulders with Islamists, hate preachers and Holocaust deniers for years,” and was accompanied with the notorious image of “Jihadi John” wearing a balaclava and pointing a knife towards the camera.
The court was informed that Lord Sheikh had in fact been invited to speak at the Tunisian conference, which was held a short time after hostilities between Israel and Gaza resulted in over 2,000 deaths. In his speech, Lord Sheikh advocated, consistent with UK government policy, that to achieve a lasting peace, a two-state solution should provide security for the state of Israel and also respect for the rights of the Palestinian people. He played no part in the wreath-laying ceremony and was not even aware of it until 2018.
It was determined on Thursday by the High Court in London that the article published by the Mail Online was highly defamatory in its nature. Associated Newspapers subsequently issued an apology to Lord Sheikh in a statement read before Mr Justice Warby.
Lord Sheikh’s solicitor, Callum Galbraith, on Thursday informed the court that Associated Newspapers accepted that the serious allegations it published were false, and that it had agreed to pay a substantial sum of damages to Lord Sheikh, as well as his legal costs. The court was told that Associated Newspapers accepted that “there was and is no truth in the allegations advanced in the article” and that it was “happy to set the record straight and apologise” to Lord Sheikh.
According to a statement issued by Lord Sheikh’s solicitor: “The Honourable Mr Justice Warby found that the article carries the following meaning: ‘the natural and ordinary meaning of the words and photographs complained of, in their context, is that the claimant has a long history of support for, or close association with, people and organisations that express or hold anti-Semitic and other extremist views and attitudes which, despite his attempts to explain it, 1 – provides strong grounds for suspecting that he is secretly an anti-Semite who approves of and sympathises with Holocaust denial, Islamist jihad and hate-preaching, which he is prepared knowingly and actively to support; 2 -is shocking and disturbing’.”
Following the hearing, Lord Sheikh, who was appointed as a life peer in 2006, expressed: “Both before and since I entered the House of Lords, I have consistently sought to promote inter-racial and inter-faith understanding, tolerance and respect. To find myself accused by a newspaper of the very conduct which I have always opposed was profoundly hurtful. I am delighted to have been able finally to clear my name from these shocking and unfounded allegations, and thank my legal team for their constant support in what for me has been a very difficult and distressing time.”