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The Sun pays out 'substantial damages' after wrongly claiming couple part of Islamic 'Trojan Horse' plot to take over primary school

The Sun has paid “substantial damages” to a Muslim couple whom it wrongly alleged were involved in a “Trojan Horse” plot to take over a primary school and enforce a “separatist agenda”.

The paper has apologised to Nasim Ashraf and his wife Hafizan Zaman ovre articles published in 20 February last year, including a column by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

False allegations included that the married couple were involved in a violent plot to take over Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham and that Zaman had “told staff to wear the [Islamic] veil”.

The Sun said: “We now recognise these allegations are unfounded, and they were not involved in any alleged Trojan Horse plot.

“We apologise to Mr Ashraf and Mrs Zaman for the distress caused. We have agreed to pay substantial damages and their legal costs.”

The allegations were said to be supported by a leaked report from Oldham Council.

But, lawyers for the pair said Ashraf was “described by a headteacher at another school as a model parent” and that the council has said he was “an individual who is very active within the faith communities of Oldham”.

Contrary to the allegations made by The Sun, the report confirmed that he is not an “extremist” said a spokesperson for Rahman Lowe Solicitors, who represented the couple.

Ashraf said: “Hafizan and I are pleased that the Sun has agreed to set the record straight by apologising and making clear that the allegations reported in the articles are untrue and wholly without foundation.

“The agreement to pay substantial damages and legal costs reflects the gravity of the allegations that were made against us.

“We are living in times where anti-Muslim hate and discrimination are increasing day by day and the Muslim community is constantly on the receiving end of false allegations.

“Unfortunately, the media has played a role in this which in turn only serves the interests of the far right, neo conservatives and those that wish to create division, rather than mutual respect and unity within our diverse communities in the UK.”

It is understood Ashraf and Zaman are also pursuing a legal claim against The Times. Last week, Press Gazette reported that the Telegraph had also apologised and paid damages over similar claims.

The Sun’s apology in full:

Articles on 20 February 2017 suggested Nasim Ashraf and Hafizan Zaman were involved in an alleged ‘Trojan horse’ plot to take over Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham.

We said this involved violence and threats, that Mr Ashraf held Islamic teaching sessions, and Mrs Zaman told staff to wear the veil.

We now recognise these allegations are unfounded, and they were not involved in any alleged Trojan Horse plot.

We apologise to Mr Ashraf and Mrs Zaman for the distress caused. We have agreed to pay substantial damages and their legal costs.

Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville

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