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  1. Media Law
March 2, 2011

Turkish PM accepts substantial Telegraph libel damages

By Oliver Luft

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, has taken substantial undisclosed libel damages from the Daily Telegraph after it alleged he accepted a donation to his political party from Iran.

Justice Tugendhat at London’s High Court was told that Erdogan had been seriously injured in his reputation both personally and as a politician by the “false and defamatory” publication in the Telegraph in last year.

Counsel Emma Edhem said today that Erdogan, who leads the ruling AK Parti, had also suffered considerable distress and embarrassment when the Telegraph published its story on 15 September.

The article alleged he had improperly negotiated and accepted a donation of $25m to his political party from a foreign state, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in order to further its campaign in a forthcoming general election.

In doing so, it was claimed, he had improperly allowed a foreign power to influence, and interfere in, the internal democratic processes of the Republic of Turkey and AK Parti policy, and had thereby seriously compromised the integrity of his party.

This was unlawful and would have constituted a criminal offence under Turkish law, said counsel.

She added that neither Erdogan nor his party had negotiated any deal of the kind alleged with Iran or with any Iranian institution, entity or individual, or accepted any donation of any kind from the Iranian Government or from any Iranian source.

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Edhem said that Telegraph Media Group now accepted that it was misinformed and the allegations were untrue.

It withdrew them, apologised and had agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages and Erdogan’s legal costs.

Helen Morris, the newspaper’s solicitor, told the court: “The defendant accepts that it was misinformed and offers its sincerest apologies to the claimant for the allegations appearing on its articles.

‘It is pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight.”

Ömer Çelik, AK Parti vice chairman in charge of foreign affairs, said: “The publication of these allegations was a disgraceful smear against Prime Minister Erdogan and the AK Parti.

“The Prime Minister is pleased that the Daily Telegraph has accepted that the allegations are untrue and has unreservedly apologised to him.

“We are also pleased that he has been able to clear his good name and that of the AK Parti.”

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