Express pays substantial libel damages to man it falsely accused of being Taliban suspect
Express Newspapers has agreed to pay substantial libel damages and costs to an Afghan asylum seeker who it wrongly accused of being a “Taliban suspect”.
The High Court heard this morning that Abdul Shizad, 20, was granted asylum in the UK in February 2013 after initially fleeing Afghanistan in 2008.
Making a statement in open court Shizad's solicitor said that he had left his home country to “escape persecution of various kinds, including persecution by the Taliban for refusing to join them”.
The court heard: “His asylum application was initially opposed by the Home Office on the grounds that he could be safely relocated to a different part of Afghanistan.
“At no point did the Home Office ever allege that the claimant was suspected of being a Taliban member – had it considered this even a remote possibility it would have had to consider excluding him from asylum protection altogether, which it did not do.”
On 4 March the Daily Express published a story headlined: “Now Judges let Taliban Suspect Stay” which said Shizad was “a suspected Taliban member”.
The court heard that an online version of the article appeared headed: “Judges Let Taliban Suspect Stay in Britain”. A picture caption referred him as “a Taliban member” and underneath this there were “a number of defamatory, highly abusive and upsetting comments”.
Shizad’s solicitor said: “The publication of these articles was devastating to the claimant and caused him great distress and upset, particularly in view of all that he had already endured in order to achieve his dream of starting a new life in the UK. The Claimant was so upset that he could not sleep, began to suffer from anxiety and avoided leaving the house in case he was attacked.”
The Daily Express apologised to Shizad and said there was no truth in its report.
The title now acknowledges that in fact, Shizad was beaten and stabbed for refusing to join the Taliban.