The Times newspaper has unreservedly apologised and paid £30,000 damages and legal costs to advocacy group CAGE and its Outreach Director Moazzam Begg after falsely accusing them of supporting Reading murderer Khairi Saadallah.
Saadallah killed James Furlong, 36, David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, during a two-minute attack in a park in Reading in June.
In an article on June 25 with the title “Campaign group helps Reading suspect Khairi Saadallah,” The Times falsely accused CAGE of working behind the scenes to help the murderer.
But yesterday the right-wing newspaper apologised saying: “We incorrectly suggested (News, 25 June) that the advocacy organisation CAGE and its Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg, were supporting the individual suspected of the Reading knife attacks of June 20, 2020, and that they were excusing his actions by reference to failings by the police and others.
“We also wrongly stated that they refused to comment on their involvement with the suspect. 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.”
After its legal win, CAGE said the story reflected the well-known strategy of The Times using Islamophobic tropes to target and malign Muslim activists.
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CAGE said it would be dedicating the damages to expose state-sponsored Islamophobia and those complicit with it in the press.
“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,” the organisation said.
Moazzam Begg, CAGE Outreach Director, added: “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 two-fold. 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. On this occasion, after being forced to recognise its unacceptable behaviour, The Times has apologised and offered compensation for the injury caused to us in the line of our work.
“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. In the meantime, this decision will assist CAGE with its important work in exposing war criminals and torture apologists – alongside their facilitators within the media.”
And Zillur Rahman, of solicitors Rahman Lowe which pursued the case against The Times, said: “We are delighted by this outcome… £30,000 is a substantial sum of damages for an article that was online for less than 24hrs. It exemplifies the gravity of the allegations.”