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Muslim cleric sues Sydney newspaper

AAP, via The Australian, Australia
Feb. 12, 2007
Adam Bennett • Tuesday February 13, 2007

Newspaper articles accusing a NSW prison chaplain of having links with terrorists were “highly inflammatory,” a Sydney court has heard.

Muslim cleric Anwar Al Barq is suing Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph over a series of articles accusing him of having links to terrorists.

In 2005, the NSW Department of Corrective Services banned the cleric from working as a prison chaplain after it was discovered he had used a false name to conceal a criminal record, which included periods in jail in both the United States and Australia.

But in three newspaper articles published on November 16, 17 and 18 in 2005, The Daily Telegraph went one step further, claiming he had links to “some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups”.

The paper also claimed that during his time as a prison chaplain he was in regular contact with two former inmates who, at the time of publication, faced trial in Jordan for an alleged terrorist attack.

On the first day of the defamation hearing in the NSW Supreme Court today, Mr Al Barq’s lawyer, barrister Clive Evatt, said the series of articles contained “pretty inflammatory allegations” against his client.

“These articles … accused Mr Al Barq, saying he was a terrorist or had associations with terrorists,” he said.

“They are pretty inflammatory allegations to make against someone.”

Mr Evatt said it was up to the four-person jury to decide whether the articles had injured Mr Al Barq’s reputation in the community and as a cleric.

Mr Al Barq began working as a chaplain for the Department of Corrective Services in 2001. He was banned in June 2005.

The hearing continues.

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