South Wales Pakistani Muslim Community wins libel case

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Conservative AM Mohammad Asghar has lost his case against three members of the South Wales Pakistani Muslim community.

Mr Asghar, who represents South Wales East, and his friend Abdul Mujahid sued Manzoor Ahmad, Farzand Ali, Shokat Butt and Mohammad Ali Hayat over defamatory allegations made about him in a leaflet distributed at a public meeting in Newport.

Mr Justice Baker found against Mr Hayat, and in April awarded £45,000 damages to both Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid. But the judge said there was no evidence that the other defendants had been involved in publishing the defamatory material.

Now Mr Justice Baker has ruled that Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid should pay costs to the other three defendants on an indemnity basis – the most generous form of costs award – because action should not have been taken against them in the first place.

The judge said it “may well be” that the motivation in bringing the action against the three men had been to delay the resolution of a row over the running of two mosques in Newport, where there was a lack of transparency and accountability which they had been challenging.

Dispute Resolution lawyer Delme Griffiths of Blake Morgan, who represents Mr Ahmad and Mr Ali, said: “This case has been ongoing since December 2012 and from the outset my clients maintained that they had no involvement in the publications complained of. While they invited the claimants to withdraw the claim on the basis that there was no evidence to support it, Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid refused.

"Mr Justice Baker has now found that this refusal was unreasonable and this was not a claim that ought reasonably to have been pursued. Following the dismissal of the case against my clients, the conduct of Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid has now been roundly criticised and the court has expressed its disapproval by ordering that they pay costs on the indemnity basis.

"While they are pleased with the outcome, my clients have been put to considerable expense in defending a claim which they believe should never have been brought. Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid will now be pursued for the costs incurred.”