The High Court’s ruling in the case of Welsh Conservative PM Mohammed Asghar shows that even foreign newspapers, printing in a different language, cannot escape English libel laws, and the strength of the Court where libel defamation is concerned.
An Urdu-language newspaper, Nawaijang, and two if its staff members have been ordered to pay a total of £270,000 in damages for libel defamation to Mr Ashghar and his friend who is a trustee of two mosques, following an article it printed in January 2012 that was found to be libelous, and damaging to Mr Asghar’s reputation. The article did not sit on the fence either: this was no ‘in between case’ of libel defamation that could have fallen either way. It accused Mr Ashghar of causing affray and stated that he had breached the peace in a mosque and had been banned by a court order from entering this particular mosque; that he had sought to turn different groups of Muslims against each other purely to serve his own selfish political agenda; that he is involved in financial scandals and corruption and reasonably believed to have received corrupt payments and to have been involved in money laundering; and that there is a finding by Newport Magistrates Court that he is a "liar”. To further make its point, the Nawaijang article also accused Mr Asghar of being “part of a gang of three people who have transferred the ownership of two mosques to themselves for their personal benefit"; that he has tried to defraud an insurance company out of millions of pounds; that he is strongly believed to have been involved in knowingly passing counterfeit currency, and that he is reasonably believed to have been involved in falsely claiming work permits for people not entitled to them and has wrongly been using mosque trusts to do so”. No words minced by the reporter and editor of the paper in this article, which sought to attack Mr Asghar’s reputation.
In making his judgment, Judge Jarman stated that he was satisfied Mr Asghar and his friend has suffered humiliation in the Muslim and mosque community, which was an important part of their lives. In having to give people in the community explanations as to the article, the Judge stated that Mr Ashgar et al had suffered embarrassment and shame, which naturally had damaged their reputations.
The Defendants, Mr Muhammed Asif Salee and his wife Nadia Tuffail have stated publically that they intend to appeal the judgement.
The case of Mr Asghar is a classic libel defamation case, where material that was printed, was found to be untrue and which clearly lowered the reputation of Mr Asghar in right thinking members of his community and caused his reputation serious harm, and Ms Asghar was right to take action in libel defamation to protect his reputation. It will be interesting to see on what grounds the Defendants’ plan to appeal on. The apparently relevant defence could be truth, however it is unlikely that Mr Asghar would have embarked on this claim if the allegations had any degree of truth to them.
This is a straightforward case that shows how important one’s reputation is and how damaging one article of libel defamation can be – Mr Ashghar was right to take action and as he correctly stated on the conclusion of the case – “British justice has been done”.
Head of Internet and Media Law