Tory peer wins libel case over article about Tunisia ‘hate conference’

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Tory peer wins libel case over article about Tunisia ‘hate conference’

Conservative Muslim politician Lord Sheikh wins 'a substantial sum of damages' after Mail Online piece claimed he 'rubbed shoulders' with extremists

Lord Sheikh
Lord Sheikh

A Muslim peer has won his libel action against the owner of the Daily Mail after an article accused him of “rubbing shoulders with Holocaust deniers”.

Conservative peer Lord Sheikh, who was appointed a life peer by Michael Howard in 2006, won a public apology from Associated Newspapers Ltd on Thursday, for an article that appeared on MailOnline on 15 August 2018. The publisher also agreed to pay “a substantial sum of damages” as well as Sheikh’s legal costs.

The article, by associate global editor Jake Wallis Simons, was titled: “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 focused on the peer’s attendance at a conference in Tunisia in 2014, where it had earlier been widely reported in the media that Jeremy Corbyn MP had participated in a wreath-laying ceremony. Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015.

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 ISIS executioner “Jihadi John” wearing a balaclava and pointing a knife.

The Court was told that Sheikh had been invited to speak at the Tunisian conference, which was held a short time after hostilities between Israel and Gaza-based militants resulted in more 2,000 deaths.

In his speech, Sheikh advocated a lasting peace based on a two-state solution, in accordance with UK government policy. He played no part in the wreath-laying ceremony and was not even aware of it until 2018.

Lord Sheikh’s solicitor, Callum Galbraith, said 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.

After the hearing, Sheikh said: “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. I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and I have always spoken out against antisemitism.

“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.”

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