Charity accepts £50,000 damages from the Times for false ‘trafficking’ claims

A charity and its founder have accepted £50,000 damages from The Times over false allegations they had “colluded with criminal human traffickers”.

Al-Khair Foundation and its founding trustee Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad sued the newspaper for libel over allegations the charity worked with traffickers assisting Somali migrants trying to reach Europe.

In December 2020, The Times reported allegations made by the Greek authorities that the Al-Khair Foundation was “helping human traffickers to smuggle migrants”, which were published in print and online.

At the High Court in London on Thursday, the charity and Imam Qasim accepted £50,000 in damages and their legal costs, in addition to an apology in both the print and online editions of The Times.

Their lawyer Helena Shipman said: “Al-Khair is a substantial charity based in England with an international aid-delivery footprint spanning more than 60 countries.”

She added that Al-Khair has donated nearly £200 million in aid globally in the past decade and has “assisted in the national Covid relief programme”, providing “food parcels, winter clothing, PPE and laptops for children”.

Ms Shipman told Mr Justice Johnson: “As The Times accepts, the articles would have been understood by readers to suggest that Al-Khair had colluded with criminal human traffickers who were assisting Somali migrants trying to reach Europe from Turkey, thereby putting their lives at risk.

“This included an incident which led to the deaths of a number of Somalis in the Mediterranean.”

She said the articles “did not refer to Imam Qasim expressly”, but that his position as Al-Khair’s “principal figurehead” meant some readers would have thought he was responsible for the smuggling alleged in the articles.

Ms Shipman told the court: “As The Times accepts, these allegations were both defamatory and untrue.

“On the contrary, neither Al-Khair nor Imam Qasim have ever been involved in, or provided any support for, the reprehensible and criminal activities which were the subject of the articles, and there is no basis whatsoever for suspecting them of having done so.”

She said The Times has agreed to pay Al-Khair and Imam Qasim “substantial damages” and their legal costs “in recognition of the false and seriously defamatory nature of the allegations”.

Ben Gallop, representing The Times, said: “The Times withdraws these false allegations and apologises to Al-Khair and its trustees, including Imam Qasim.”

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Imam Qasim said it was “a big relief” to have settled the case.

He told the PA news agency: “I’m feeling quite pleased with the outcome. It was sad that we went through it, but it is good that the truth has come out.”

Imam Qasim said that “100%” of the damages he personally received would be used to fund Al-Khair’s charitable activities.

He added: “It would have been better if they (The Times) would have given us more time to respond – they gave us literally just a few hours, which was not enough.

“If they would have checked the facts properly, that would have been fantastic and we would have avoided all this hassle.”

But he said he was “very grateful to them” for resolving the case “amicably”, saying: “They didn’t try to defend themselves unnecessarily, like other media would do.”

Imam Qasim also thanked Al-Khair’s donors for “having faith” in the charity after the allegations were made.

Credit: PA News

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Categories: Al Khair, Imam Qasim, Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad, Muslim Charity, News, Somalia, Sudan, The Times, Trafficking, Turkey

Fishmongers’ Hall attacker ‘was influential inmate who talked to Rigby killer’

The Fishmongers’ Hall attacker was an “influential” inmate who associated with Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killer before his release, an inquest has heard.

Convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, spent eight years in prison where he was involved in a string of violent incidents and “extremist bullying”, the inquest jury at London’s Guildhall was told.

Eleven months after his release, Khan killed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at a Learning Together prisoners’ educational event at Fishmongers’ Hall in London.

On Tuesday, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Dan Brown gave evidence about Khan’s life and long history of extremism in and out of prison.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent to parents who had come to the UK from Pakistan, he was described by a former teacher as having a “chip on his shoulder” and “teenage swagger”.

At the age of 13, Khan was excluded from school after assaulting another pupil and exchanging racial slurs, for which he was given a youth reprimand, the court heard.

The court heard how Khan was attracted to extreme Islam in his teens and took an interest in prominent figures Anwar Al-Awlaki and Anjem Choudary, the leader of terrorist organisation al-Muhajiroun (ALM).

In 2008, he preached in Stoke on behalf of ALM and police raided the address where he was living, jurors heard.

Afterwards, Khan said he was born and bred in Stoke, and insisted: “I ain’t no terrorist.”

But within years, Khan was one of nine men from London, Stoke and Cardiff to be convicted of terrorism offences.

In December 2010, Khan discussed with another male how to construct the pipe bomb from a recipe in the al Qaida magazine Inspire, jurors heard.

Khan pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts and was in custody until the end of 2018.

In a basis of plea, Khan admitted plotting to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan which might send fighters back to the UK.

In February 2012, Khan was handed an indeterminate sentence which was varied upon appeal to an extended sentence.

It meant Khan had to serve eight years in custody but no longer needed the approval of the Parole Board before his release, the court heard.

Jurors were told how Khan became a senior figure amongst extremists in prison and was categorised as a “high risk”.

He was involved with violent incidents and radicalisation of fellow inmates during his time at seven prisons across England.

In January 2011, Khan suggested he had access to a weapon and would “do someone in the eye or neck” and wanted to die and go to paradise, jurors heard.

In March 2011, Khan and others were involved in an attack on another prisoner to shouts of “Allahu Akbar”, Mr Brown said.

The same year, Khan shouted during the two-minute silence for Armistice Day.

In June 2012, Khan recited a poem which included the line “cut off the kuffar’s head”, the court heard.

In May 2013, a stockpile of chemicals was found in Khan’s cell which would not have been capable of making an IED but was still “very concerning”, Mr Brown said.

In November of that year, a Church of England chaplain was caught up in an assault by Khan on another prisoner.

The same day, a razor blade was found in his cell, the court heard.

In 2017, while at HMP Whitemoor, Khan remained a high risk, Mr Brown said.

While his behaviour was noted as “acceptable” with “no recent adjudications”, evidence suggested he continued to harbour extremist attitudes and deliberately “told lies or ticked boxes to achieve progression”.

In March 2017, Khan talked about his Muslim faith with Michael Adebowale, who beheaded Fusilier Rigby, jurors heard.

By June of that year, Khan was regarded as an “influential” terrorist prisoner involved in “extremist bullying”, Mr Brown said.

In October 2018, intelligence on Khan suggested he would “return to his old ways”.

Meanwhile, he was said to have engaged “positively” with Learning Together, jurors heard.

The inquest into the deaths of Ms Jones and Mr Merritt continues.

Read more: Prison chaplain: I may have been ‘conned’ by ‘remorseful’ Fishmongers’ attacker

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Categories: Fishmongers' attack, Fishmongers' Hall, Lee Rigby, Michael Adebowale, News, Usman Khan

Syrian teenager suing Tommy Robinson ‘seeking at least £150,000 damages’

A Syrian teenager suing Tommy Robinson for libel is seeking at least £150,000 in damages, the High Court has heard at the conclusion of the trial.

The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being sued by Jamal Hijazi, 17, who was filmed being attacked at his Huddersfield school in October 2018.

Shortly after the video went viral in November 2018, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.

Robinson, who represented himself at the trial, has defended his comments on the basis they are substantially true.

In her written closing argument, Catrin Evans QC, representing Jamal, called for “substantial damages” between £150,000 and £190,000 for the teenager if he wins the claim.

At the end of the four-day trial on Monday, she told the court: “In relation to the allegations which the defendant has sought to prove as substantially true, we suggest that he has not proved either of them.”

Throughout the trial, Robinson, 38, maintained he was an independent journalist, telling the court: “The media simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth.”

In his closing argument, he continued: “I am far from perfect, however this case is not about me, as much as the claimant’s representatives would like to make me, my history or my views a focus of their attention.

“My political beliefs are not on trial, it’s whether my reporting on publicly available information was a matter of truth or not.”

Charly Matthews, 18, a former student of Almondbury Community School with Jamal, gave evidence as part of Robinson’s case, claiming Jamal had hit her in the back with a hockey stick, leaving her with long-term injuries.

Addressing the court on Monday, Robinson said: “In order for the claimant to win this case, the court has to believe this young girl is a brazen liar.”

In the Facebook videos, with one seen about 870,000 times, Robinson also claimed that Jamal “beat a girl black and blue” in a gang, and bit a student, which the teenager denies.

The trial previously heard evidence from Bailey McLaren, the boy shown pushing Jamal to the ground and pouring water over him in the widely-shared video.

Mr McLaren denied being racist or a bully.

Robinson continued: “Almondbury Community School has its failings for sure, but racism and racist bullying was not one of them.”

He added: “Just because (Jamal) might have been a victim does not automatically mean he himself couldn’t be a nasty, foul-mouthed and often violent young person, particularly against girls and smaller, younger boys.”

In her own closing statement, Ms Evans argued that Robinson suggested “that this is somehow a travesty of justice and that a white schoolboy has been scapegoated”.

Ms Evans pointed out there was a lack of evidence for Robinson’s claims, and that Jamal had himself given “clear and consistent” evidence.

The barrister continued: “We do rely on the defendant’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Muslim one, which is why he waded into this … Jamal was the victim of that.”

She told the court: “Not only has the defendant sought to try and prove a case that he was never going to be able to do, but he has even, in his closing submissions, he has continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced.”

She continued: “These are allegations of criminal offences or tantamount to criminal offences and it is quite clear that Jamal is the victim here.”

The barrister also argued that the allegations against Jamal were aggravated by the fact that they were made “against someone who had come to this country with his family for sanctuary, seeking a better life and in particular the chance for an education and prospects for a good career”, which he said in evidence was “badly damaged” by Robinson’s publication.

Mr Justice Nicklin told the court he will give his judgment at a later date.

Addressing Robinson, he added: “I commend you in the way that you have presented the case as a litigant in person.

“You have done so in a way that has been, to my mind, quite proper and you have done your best to assist the court.”

Credit: PA NEWS

Read more: Tommy Robinson’s ‘anti-Muslim message’ saw boy facing death threats, court hears

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Categories: English Defence League, Jamal Hijazi, libel, News, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, Tommy Robinson

Racist teens abuse mother who challenged their behaviour in front of her children

Walking on the street with her young children, a Muslim woman faced racist abuse from a group of aggressive teens after she challenged the remarks from one of them who said, “get your kids out my f******* way”.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, the woman described how she felt targeted for being South Asian and wearing the hijab as the teens responded with racist, mocking, and stereotypical accent in an incident which occurred not long after she collected her children from school on March 30 in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

We are not disclosing the exact location to protect their identity, but Tell MAMA reported the incident to the police on their behalf, she did not report it immediately, but she did double check that the nearby store had captured it on CCTV.

She added that she felt that the teens were ‘taken aback’ when she challenged them, adding her belief that they singled her out because of her hijab, mentioning that one of the teens was expressly loud when using the f-word, as one of her young children noting how they did not like those boys.

The perpetrators are all described as being white and around the age of fifteen.

More broadly, academics have researched the impacts of linguistic racism and linguistic stereotyping to how it impacts bullied South Asian children through a racialised lens of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia to how such harmful stereotypes became popularised in popular culture in the United States.

As evidenced in various research reports by Tell MAMA, such gendered dynamics, which often operates through racialised and misogynistic frameworks, further demonstrates how harmful stereotypes embolden men to target Muslim women.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.


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Categories: Hijab, London, MET Police, News

Fifth person held after deadly police station attack in France

French authorities have detained a fifth person in an anti-terrorism investigation seeking to identify potential accomplices and motives after a police official was fatally stabbed at a police station outside Paris.

French police killed the 37-year-old Tunisian attacker shortly after he stabbed the unarmed administrative employee on Friday at the entrance of her police station in the town of Rambouillet.

At a news conference, anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said police are questioning a cousin of the suspect.

The suspect’s father, a couple who had provided him with an address for mail and other administration, and another cousin were also being questioned, Mr Ricard said.

The victim, a National Police employee, had left the station to extend her time on a parking meter and was followed into the entry area and stabbed by the attacker.

He was then shot dead by a police officer.

The attacker, identified by authorities as Jamel G, entered France illegally in 2009 and was given residency papers at the end of 2019, Mr Ricard said.

He was a practising Muslim according to his father, Mr Ricard added.

He had staked out the police station ahead of time and listened to religious songs inciting “jihad” just before the attack, according to evidence found on his mobile phone.

Witnesses heard him say “Allahu akbar!”, Arabic for God is great, during the attack, he said.

The man had no criminal record or evidence of radicalisation, Mr Ricard said, stressing that investigations are taking place to determine whether people helped or inspired the attacker, in “close co-ordination” with Tunisian judicial authorities.

Read more: Woman, 18, arrested in France over ‘plot’ targeting church

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Categories: France, News, radicalisation, Rambouillet

India’s crematoria overwhelmed as virus ‘swallows people like a monster’

India’s crematoria and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of coronavirus infections tearing through the country, depleting the supply of life-saving oxygen to critical levels and leaving patients to die while waiting to see doctors.

For the fourth straight day, on Sunday India set a global daily record of new infections, spurred by the emergence of a new variant that has undermined the government’s premature claims of victory over the pandemic.

The 349,691 confirmed cases over the past day took India’s total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States.

The Health Ministry reported another 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s Covid-19 fatalities to 192,311.

Experts say that toll could be a huge undercount, as suspected cases are not included, and many deaths from the infection are being attributed to underlying conditions.

The crisis unfolding in India is most visceral in its graveyards and crematoria, and in heartbreaking images of gasping patients dying on their way to hospital due to lack of oxygen.

Burial grounds in the Indian capital, New Delhi, are running out of space and bright, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in other badly hit cities.

In central Bhopal city, some crematoria have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to more than 50, but officials said there are still long waits.

At the Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the city with a population of 1.8 million put the total number of deaths at just 10.

“The virus is swallowing our city’s people like a monster,” said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at the site.

The unprecedented rush of bodies has forced the crematorium to abandon individual ceremonies and rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.

“We are just burning bodies as they arrive,” said Mr Sharma. “It is as if we are in the middle of a war.”

The head gravedigger at New Delhi’s largest Muslim cemetery, where 1,000 people have been buried during the pandemic, said more bodies are arriving now than last year.

“I fear we will run out of space very soon,” said Mohammad Shameem.

The situation is equally grim at unbearably full hospitals, where desperate people are dying in queues, sometimes on the roads outside, waiting to see doctors.

Health officials are scrambling to expand critical care units and stock up on dwindling supplies of oxygen. Hospitals and patients alike are struggling to procure scarce medical equipment that is being sold at inflated prices.

The crisis is in direct contrast with government claims that “nobody in the country was left without oxygen” in a statement made at Delhi High Court on Saturday by India’s Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta.

The breakdown is a stark failure for a country whose prime minister declared victory over Covid-19 in January, and which boasted of being the “world’s pharmacy”, a global producer of vaccines and a model for other developing nations.

Caught off guard by the latest deadly spike, the federal government has asked industrialists to increase the production of oxygen and other life-saving drugs in short supply. But health experts said India had an entire year to prepare for the inevitable – and failed to do so.

Dr Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the Indian government has been “very reactive to this situation rather than being proactive”.

She said the government should have used the last year, when the virus was more under control, to develop plans to address a surge and “stockpiled medications and developed public-private partnerships to help with manufacturing essential resources in the event of a situation like this”.

“Most importantly, they should have looked at what was going on in other parts of the world and understood that it was a matter of time before they would be in a similar situation,” Dr Kuppalli said.

She called the government’s premature declarations of victory over the pandemic a “false narrative”, which encouraged people to relax health measures when they should have continued strict adherence to physical distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large crowds.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing mounting criticism for allowing Hindu festivals and attending mammoth election rallies that experts suspect accelerated the spread of infections.

His Hindu nationalist government is trying to quell critical voices.

On Saturday, Twitter complied with the government’s request and prevented people in India from viewing more than 50 tweets that appeared to criticise the administration’s handling of the pandemic. The targeted posts include tweets from opposition ministers critical of Mr Modi, journalists and ordinary Indians.

A Twitter spokesman said it has powers to “withhold access to the content in India only” if the company determines the content to be “illegal in a particular jurisdiction”.

The company said it had responded to an order by the government and notified people whose tweets were withheld.

India’s Information Technology ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Hindu festivals, Hindu nationalism, India, Narendra Modi, News, Pandemic

New charity aims to erect war memorials to recognise Muslim contribution

A new charity launched to recognise the sacrifices made by Muslims who fought in the British military in the past century is aiming to erect war memorials to commemorate their contributions.

The National Muslim War Memorial Trust (NMWMT) said it also wants to educate both students and adults about the role of Muslims in the Armed Forces, to dispel misconceptions and help create good relations between different people and communities.

The organisation’s chair, the Conservative peer Lord Sheikh, said the “heroic contribution” of Muslims in the British Armed Forces during both World Wars has been “undervalued”.

He said: “One of the key reasons we have set up the charity is to combat Islamophobia, and people should realise the sacrifices Muslims made to keep the Union Jack flying.”

He said those associated with the trust “very much hope to draw attention to and get more public recognition for the sacrifices made by Muslim personnel in the British Armed Forces”.

He added: “The War Graves Commission report illustrates how long overdue this is.”

An investigation published this week found the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) did not properly commemorate potentially hundreds of thousands of black and Asian service personnel who died fighting for the British Empire.

The NMWMT said the first memorial it will be involved in erecting will be at a location in London which is yet to be agreed.

So far, £29,000 of a £2 million target has been raised to erect a permanent memorial, the trust’s website shows.

According to the trust there were at least 400,000 Muslims fighting in the British Indian Army during the First World War, and this had grown to around one million by the time of the Second World War.

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Categories: British Indian, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lord Sheikh, National Muslim War Memorial Trust, News

Neo-Nazi who called for civil war guilty of spreading racist hate on Twitter

A neo-Nazi convicted of various racist hate crime offences is due for sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court on May 14 following a lengthy investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE).

Tobias Powell, 32, from Wythering Close in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, appeared at Worthing Magistrates Court on April 16 and was found guilty of four counts using threatening, abusive or insulting words to stir up racial hatred, contravening section 19 (1) of the Public Order Act 1986.

On Twitter, between July 31, 2018, and October 8, 2018, Powell spread racist messages calling for violent civil war, used white supremacist talking points, and supported the banned neo-Nazi terror group National Action.

They also posted a photo of their Nazi tattoo, according to the CTPSE press release.

When CTPSE officers searched the address of Tobias Powell on December 13, 2019, they seized white supremacist literature and various electronic devices – Powell had used Adolf Hitler as his Apple ID name.

Weeks after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a neo-Nazi terrorist in June 2016, Powell tweeted that the late MP was an “enemy of the people”.

The CTPSE press release also reveals that Powell emailed the-then prime minister Theresa May, referring to her as a ‘snake’ in an email with ‘Brexit stitch-up’ in the subject line. A letter sent to Powell’s local MP Nick Gibbs referenced Sharia law.

The conviction generated various questionable headlines, however. The Chichester Observer headlined its coverage “Bognor Regis man with Nazi tattoo convicted over string of hate crimes” as Planet Radio headlined their coverage: “Bognor man convicted of hate crimes over racist social media tweets”.

The Telegraph referred to Powell as a “Far right extremist” in its headline and as a “far right sympathiser” in the article’s opening sentence.

In contrast, the MailOnline dropped its original headline, “far-right sympathiser who called for convicted of hate crime”, to a more accurate version, which now reads: “Nazi-tattooed far-right thug, 32, who called for a race war and had Apple ID under Adolf Hitler’s name faces jail”.

An earlier version of the MailOnline headline before its correction.

An earlier version of the MailOnline headline before its correction.

The original headline still appears on social media image crawls, as the original URL string reads “Far-right-sympathiser-32-called-race-war-convicted-hate-crime-offences.html”.

The Argus newspaper, in contrast, correctly headlined their story, “Bognor Neo Nazi Tobias Powell admits racist hate crimes”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, Head of CTPSE, said: Whilst this was not a terrorism case, the nature of the rhetoric Powell had shared on social media, meant that it was only right for specialist officers from Counter Terrorism Policing to conduct a thorough investigation.

“We know there is a fine line between hate speech and terrorism. Showing support for terrorist organisations is not acceptable and if you do that, you should expect to be investigated by us.”

Chief Inspector Jon Carter, Arun and Chichester District Commander for Sussex Police, said: “This case shows the importance of thorough investigation of any use of the Internet to spread hate and dangerous material,” adding that Powell posed no risk to the local community.


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Categories: hate crime, Neo-Nazi, News

Dozens arrested after night of chaos in Jerusalem

A total of 44 people have been arrested and 20 Israeli police officers were injured on a night of chaos in Jerusalem, as security forces clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby.

Tensions have risen in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Residents braced for possible further unrest ahead of Muslim Friday prayers as police stepped up security measures.

Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast.

Later on Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones and bottles at police, who fired water cannon and stun grenades to disperse them.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured during the unrest.

Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting “Arabs get out” toward the Damascus Gate.

The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs.

Police used metal barricades to halt the far-right protesters a few hundred yards from Damascus Gate.

Later, they used water cannon, stun grenades and mounted police to push them back toward mostly Jewish west Jerusalem.

Videos circulated online showed smaller clashes and fires elsewhere in the city.

One video showed what appeared to be a group of Palestinians beating an ultra-Orthodox Jew near Damascus Gate.

They could be seen punching, kicking and throwing the man to the ground before police chased them off.

The police statement did not specify whether those arrested were Palestinian or Jewish and did not refer to any specific instances of violence.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Its fate has been one of the most divisive issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.

Thousands of Palestinians were expected to attend weekly prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City later on Friday.

The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The sprawling hilltop holy site has been the scene of clashes on a number of occasions over the years, and was the epicentre of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

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Categories: Al Aqsa, Arab, Clashes, Jerusalem, News, Ramadhan, Temple Mount

I am not a racist, Tommy Robinson tells libel trial

Tommy Robinson has told the High Court he is “not racist” as a libel claim brought against him by a Syrian teenager who was filmed being assaulted continues.

The English Defence League founder – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – is being sued by schoolboy Jamal Hijazi, 17, who was filmed being attacked at his Huddersfield school in October 2018.

Shortly after the video went viral, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.

Robinson, who is representing himself at the trial, is defending his comments on the basis they are substantially true.

In his written arguments, Robinson claimed to have “uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour” by Jamal.

He said that with people donating nearly £160,000 to a GoFundMe page set up for the claimant, he believed it was important for people to be given a “balanced view”.

Starting his case on Thursday, Robinson told the High Court that Jamal’s lawyers had mischaracterised him and the EDL.

Robinson said: “Their opening statement, which was a blatant attack on my character, is boringly predictable.”

The 38-year-old told the court the EDL had been classed as a centrist group and he had worked with an anti-extremism group for five years.

“For what it’s worth, I am not racist, and I am certainly not anti-Muslim,” he said.

Robinson later said the media had been in a “frenzy” over the incident with Jamal and had not reported “the other side”.

He added: “I only reported what I was told. That is all I’m doing here in this court, looking for the truth.”

In the Facebook videos, viewed by nearly a million people, Robinson made claims including that Jamal “beat a girl black and blue”, which the teenager denies.

On Thursday, the High Court heard evidence from Bailey McLaren, the boy shown pushing Jamal to the ground and pouring water over him in the widely shared video.

Mr McLaren, who is now 18 and was a student at Almondbury Community School with Jamal, told the court he had been in trouble at school but was not a bully.

He said: “I would say that if I was physical, I would have to be provoked into it. There would have to be a reason and it would have to a strong reason.”

Robinson asked: “Looking at your school record, were you a bully?”

The teenager replied: “No. I can’t stand bullying – from a young age I was affected by it. The mainstream media painted it out that I was a bully.”

“Are you a racist?” Robinson asked.

Mr McLaren replied: “Not at all. The incident with Jamal had nothing to do with race.”

In his witness statement, Mr McLaren claimed Jamal was “a strange boy”.

He wrote: “Pupils and staff alike were fully aware that Jamal had a real problem with girls and even with female staff and that he was abusive towards them. You would hear from time to time that Jamal was bullying young girls and stuff.”

On the day of the incident in October 2018, Mr McLaren told the court there had been a confrontation between him and Jamal, adding: “He told me to ‘f*** off, you white bastard’.”

Mr McLaren also said he was told by another student that Jamal had threatened to stab him, which is denied.

On Wednesday, Jamal’s barrister Catrin Evans QC described Robinson’s defence as “a cobbled-together mix of generalised smears of Jamal’s character”, saying “there is simply no merit to the defendant’s defence of truth”.

In cross-examination on Thursday afternoon, Ms Evans said Mr McLaren was “regularly in trouble” for serious bullying including intimidation and physical assaults.

Mr McLaren replied: “I’m not trying to claim I’m an angel, I had incidents in school.

“I do agree that I’m quite hot-headed, but I’ve changed.”

The court heard he was permanently excluded and accepted a police caution for assaulting Jamal after the videoed incident.

Ms Evans suggested Mr McLaren was part of a gang of students who often targeted Jamal.

She said: “Jamal was one of your regular victims of bullying and you were the ringleader of the group that bullied him.”

Mr McLaren replied: “I think if anyone was the bully, it was Jamal.”

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Categories: English Defence League, Far Right groups, Jamal Hijazi, Libel Trial, News, Tommy Robinson