A GWENT AM and a Newport businessman have won £45,000 each in libel damages over an Urdu newspaper article that made a series of unfounded claims against them.
High Court judge Milwyn Jarman said Mohammad Asghar and Abdul Rahman Mujahid were humiliated after an article about them appeared in the Nawa-i-Jang newspaper, printed in the UK and Pakistan.
Judge Jarman said some members of the community no longer speak to them.
The ruling against Nawa-i-Jang UK Limited and its employees Muhammad Asif Saleem and Nadia Tuffail says it was a serious failing that the newspaper did not put the allegations to the claimants.
Mr Asghar, a Tory AM for South Wales East, said that he had stayed away from going to mosque as a result of the allegations.
“I’m very, very pleased. I am totally vindicated,” he said.
He said he will be pleased to go to mosque this Friday and "tell my colleagues that this newspaper was totally wrong”.
Mr Asghar said he will give some of the damages to charity.
Mr Mujhaid, who is secretary of Newport’s Harrow Road mosque and Jamia Mosque on Commercial Road, said: “Thank God that justice is done.”
The judgment says the article made a series of false claims against Mr Ashgar, including over his behaviour at a mosque, and over his financial dealings.
False claims were also made about Mr Mujahid’s business dealings.
The defence had argued that damages should be nominal and that the career and business interests of the claimants had not suffered.
But Judge Jarman wrote he was “satisfied that each claimant has suffered humiliation within Muslim and mosque communities, which play a highly important part in the lives of each of them.”
He said Mr Asghar had spoken of how he received queries from constituents, voters and colleagues, and Mr Mujahid had the same from imams of mosques in England as a result of the article.
“The attitudes of some members of such communities have changed towards each claimant, and some no longer speak to them. Worry and stress has been caused,” wrote the judge.
The judge said it was a “serious failing” that the defendants did not give the claimants the opportunity to comment on the accusations before publication.
An award of £45,000 for each claimant takes into account that failure, the judge ruled.