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Daily Telegraph pays Finsbury Park mosque leader 'substantial damages' over violent Islamist extremism claim

Article attempted to connect Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with alleged extremism


Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 09 May 2018 19:39 BST
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn stands next to Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar (r) after the June 2017 attack
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn stands next to Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar (r) after the June 2017 attack (Getty)

The Daily Telegraph has paid “substantial” undisclosed libel damages to the chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque over a claim he was a supporter of violent Islamist extremism.

Mohammed Kozbar brought proceedings at London’s High Court over an article which appeared in the newspaper and on its website in March 2016.

Headlined “Corbyn and the mosque leader who blames the UK for Isil”, the article featured a picture of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shaking hands with Mr Kozbar, and a quote in which he said the mosque chairman was “fantastic”.

Mr Kozbar’s lawyer Jonathan Coad told the court the piece attempted to connect the Labour leader with alleged extremism and wrongly accused his client of being no better a role model for the Islamic faith and leader of the mosque than his predecessor, Abu Hamza.

The court ruled that the article was defamatory of Mr Kozbar.

In a statement posted to its website, The Telegraph said it had “accepted an offer to settle the claim by a payment of substantial damages”.

Mr Coad said that at a preliminary hearing, a judge had determined the article meant his client was “a supporter of violent Islamist extremism who has praised and encouraged Islamist terrorism abroad, and that he is a hypocrite who has falsely claimed to have led the mosque away from Islamist extremism when he knows he has not done so.”

Mr Coad told Mr Justice Warby that the “grave and unjustified” defamation was aggravated by the assertion that Mr Kozbar had declined to comment, when the newspaper had never made contact with him.

The Telegraph has now removed the article, which had been written by the journalist Andrew Gilligan.

Mr Coad said: “Mr Kozbar is content to use this opportunity to point out that, notwithstanding its bullish attitude prior to the issue of proceedings, the defendant has shied away from the opportunity to stand by the grave allegations that it published against him and his faith community, and has rather bought itself out of these proceedings by means of a substantial payment in damages.

“On that basis he is also content to let this matter rest.”

PA contributed to this report

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