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  1. Media Law
January 28, 2010

‘Kill British’ blog man fails in MoS libel bid

By Oliver Luft

A civil servant at the Treasury yesterday lost his attempt to sue the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail over articles suggesting he had been suspended and was being investigated over comments he made on a blog.

Azad Ali tried to sue over articles which appeared in the two newspapers in January last year under the headlines “Muslim civil servant suspended over ‘kill British’ blog”, and “Civil servant ‘backed fanatic’s call to kill our troops in Iraq’.”

Justice Eady yesterday gave the newspapers’ publisher, Associated Newspapers, his summary judgment in which he said Ali’s case was bound to fail and had about it “an absence of reality”.

Ali had claimed the articles meant that he was “a hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq by fellow Muslims as justified”.

The stories said he had been suspended from his job after posting a number of remarks on his personal blog, published on the Between the Lines website, which is hosted by the Islamic Forum of Europe.

They cited passages from two particular pieces Ali published under the headings “Defeating extremism by promoting balance” and “We are the Resistance II”, which were posted on the blog on 18 November 18, 2008, and 15 January last year.

The judge said David Glen, for Associated Newspapers, sought summary judgment or an order striking the case out, arguing that Ali’s observations in his blog advocated a form of jihad – holy war – which could only be understood as justifying the killing of British and American troops in Iraq, and that a jury would be perverse to reach any other conclusion.

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Justice Eady said Ali had sought to draw a distinction between the position in Iraq up to the elections in 2005 and the position afterwards, and went on: “The suggestion appears to be that until the Iraqi elections the allied troops were ‘occupiers’ and that resistance to them could be seen as justified by his ‘balanced’ view of the requirements of jihad.”

But after the elections the allies were in Iraq with the people’s consent, so could not be properly regarded as occupiers, meaning that violence towards them could not then be justified by Ali’s interpretation of jihad.

But in his blog Ali had not drawn any distinction between those two periods in time.

The judge said the logic of Ali’s argument was that he would have regarded the killing of American and British troops in Iraq as being justified by reference to jihad up, at least, to the elections in 2005.

But the passage in the blog “seems clearly to convey the meaning that, on the ‘balanced’ view of jihad, killing the ‘occupying’ troops would still have been justified in November 2008”, he said.

The judge said he was “compelled” to conclude that Glen was correct and went on: “I would hold that the claimant was indeed, in November, 2008, and for so long as the blog remained available, taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified by his middle or ‘balanced’ interpretation of jihad.

“Moreover, since it is a matter of construing plain language in its overall context, I believe it would be perverse to take a contrary view.

‘In other words, it would not be a rational interpretation of the blog to understand the claimant as saying either that the Allied troops were not ‘occupiers’ in Iraq or that they ceased to be ‘occupiers’ in 2005.

“In those circumstances, the claim can be categorised legitimately as ‘bound to fail’ and as having about it an ‘absence of reality’.

“Nothing would be gained by investigating other blogs in the past or the claimant’s background in other respects. Such an exercise could not change or qualify the plain meaning of the blog in question.”

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