Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

UK politician victorious in libel case

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

UK Member of Parliament (MP) George Galloway won a resounding libel victory in London against the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday with a damages award of ?150,000 (US$288,452).

Delivering his high court judgment, Justice Eady described the Telegraph's allegations, based on disputed Iraqi documents found after the end of the Iraq war, as "dramatic and condemnatory."

In accusing Galloway of being in the secret pay of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the paper had made "a rush to judgment" in "a classic case of publishing and being damned," Eady said.

The Telegraph faces a bill for costs of more than ?1.2 million.

With Galloway sitting in front of him, the judge said the MP had been seriously defamed.

He was also not given a "fair or reasonable" opportunity to comment on allegations that he secretly and traitorously received money from the Iraqi regime for his own benefit.

Galloway faces a further inquiry into the allegations by Sir Philip Mawer, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, which was temporarily suspended pending the hearing of the case.

Galloway said on Thursday that "the documents are either forgeries or they have been doctored -- but they are in any case fakes".

Outside the court the 50-year-old MP from Glasgow, who was expel-led from the Labour party last year, launched into a typically robust tirade against the Telegraph.

Galloway said the paper had been given "a judicial caning."

He said: "All those people, the old regime of the Daily Telegraph -- Lord Black, Barbara Amiel, Charles Moore -- were amongst the chief trumpeters for the disastrous decision to go to war with Iraq."

"In aid of their case they said many things which turned out to be wholly false, bogus, counterfeit, forged and utterly wrong. So, the Telegraph has been held to account," Galloway said.

Saying he had risked everything to pursue the action, he added: "I am glad and somewhat humbled to discover that there is at least one corner of the English field which remains uncorrupted and independent and that corner is in this courtroom."

The Telegraph described the judgment as a "blow to the principle of freedom of expression in this country."

The paper plans to appeal.

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