Defamed mosque secretary awarded damages

A former staffer at a Sydney mosque has been awarded $125,000 in damages after being defamed by a newspaper report that claimed he was a supporter of terrorism.

Two articles and an editorial in News Limited’s The Australian newspaper in June 2003, claimed the then secretary of the Dee Why mosque, Romzi Ali, was involved with the terrorism linked group Laskar Jihad.

Handing down his judgment in the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Bruce James said reading the articles had affected Mr Ali’s health and that he was “frightened, alarmed, shaken and broken”.

One article said Mr Ali was raising money for Laskar Jihad operations in 2000, adding that he had denied the claims.

In the defamation case against Nationwide News in 2005, a jury found the article contained meanings that Mr Ali was a supporter of terrorism and “that he has raised money for the operations of Laskar Jihad, an organisation which does not worry about doing killing in pursuit of its political objections”.

Justice James said the meanings were “serious” and had even caused Mr Ali to think about leaving Australia.

AAP, 15 March 2007