The Al-Khair Foundation and its leader Imam Qasim Ahmad have been awarded substantial damages after being falsely accused by The Times newspaper of colluding with people smugglers.
The newspaper published articles in December 2020 about Somali migrants trying to reach Europe and suggested that Al-Khair had colluded with criminal human traffickers.
They also falsely suggested Al Khair had funded a boat journey that led to the deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
The articles were based on comments by a Greek government minister who falsely claimed the charity was part of a network that helped moved refugees from Somalia to Greece via Turkey.
But now The Times has withdrawn the articles and accepted they were both defamatory and untrue, and apologised unreservedly to Imam Qasim and Al-Khair in open court on Thursday. The newspaper also agreed to pay £50,000 damages and the court costs.
A statement in the High Court read: “As The Times accepts, these allegations were both defamatory and untrue. On the contrary, neither Al-Khair nor Imam Qasim have ever been involved in, or provided any support for, the reprehensible and criminal activities which were the subject of the Articles, and there is no basis whatsoever for suspecting them of having done so.”
Commenting on the case, Imam Qasim told the Press Association it was a “big relief” to have settled the case.
“I’m feeling quite pleased with the outcome. It was sad that we went through it, but it is good that the truth has come out. It would have been better if they [The Times] would have given us more time to respond. They gave us literally just a few hours, which was not enough. If they would have checked the facts properly, that would have been fantastic, and we would have avoided all this hassle.”
He added that “100 percent” of the damages he personally received would be used to fund Al-Khair’s charitable activities.
Imam Qasim established Al-Khair in 2003. The charity operates internationally to respond to disasters and conflict by providing emergency aid and to rebuild communities while working across the UK to support vulnerable families and women, the homeless and unemployed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic it has delivered PPE, winter clothing, food and medical supplies for the vulnerable and isolated, along with distributing laptops to children.
Al-Khair and its Trustees were represented by Adam Tudor and Helena Shipman of Carter-Ruck, together with Khalid Sofi of Lee Bolton Monier-Williams.