ASSEMBLY Member Mohammad Asghar’s attempt to sue five members of Newport’s Muslim community has been adjourned for several months as one of the defendants has bronchitis.
The High Court civil trial was expected to continue at Newport Crown Court yesterday but Mohammad Ali Hayat said he could not attend because his breathing difficulties had worsened.
Unwilling to continue in his absence, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker adjourned the case against Manzoor Ahmed, Farzand Ali, Shokat Butt and Mohammed Ali Hayat until Hayat was well enough to appear in court.
Illness has also meant a fifth defendant, Javed Javed, could not attend the trial and separate proceedings are likely to be brought against him. All respondents deny libel.
Earlier in the case, South Wales East Conservative AM Mr Asghar said a folder of allegations was sent to national politicians by at least one of the defendants in an attempt to damage his reputation, and that of his friend and fellow claimant Abdul Rahman Mujahid.
He claimed Home Secretary Theresa May and the Welsh Conservative Party leader Andrew RT Davies were among those sent the dossier in January 2012.
Mr Asghar said the dossier alleged that “I was involved in money laundering, that I was a criminal.”
He added: “It was a character assassination.”
Defamatory claims were also allegedly made on a website and in a newsletter.
Addressing the judge regarding the adjournment, William Bennett, representing the claimants, said: “Mr Hayat is not only a liar but he is a coward. We don’t accept the medical evidence. In our analysis he was well able to put his case forward yesterday, in a very aggressive, loud way, and that is inconsistent with someone said to be suffering with bronchitis to such an extent that he cannot return to court.”
But Mr Justice Baker said: “It has been obvious to all and certainly to me that although clearly he was able to conduct himself over the last few days entirely adequately and appropriately he was suffering from a degree of ill health yesterday.
“It seems to me that he showed a degree of fortitude in his ability to continue representation himself in this case, albeit his style of representation may not have been entirely welcome to all.”
He said he accepted the medical evidence that Mr Hayat was suffering from bronchitis.
Everyone in the case must now decide when they can return to court – but as As Mr Justice Baker has a packed diary, the delay in restarting the court proceedings could stretch into 2015.