Libel case of Mohammad Asghar and Abdul Mujahid adjourned

Mohammad Asghar Mr Asghar was awarded damages in another case earlier this year

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A libel case brought by a Conservative assembly member has been adjourned and is unlikely to resume until next year.

Mohammad Asghar, AM for South Wales East, and Abdul Mujahid are taking the action against five men from Newport.

They claim the men, who deny libel, made false statements in a newsletter and a dossier.

It is alleged the claims include suggestions Mr Asghar was involved in money laundering and other criminality - something he denies.

The five respondents - Manzoor Ahmad, Farzand Ali, Shokat Bhutt, Mohammad Ali Hayat and Javed Javed - all deny libel.

Yesterday, William Bennett, who is representing Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid, told the High Court hearing in Newport that the five respondents wanted to take over the running of the Jamia and Al Noor mosques from Mr Mujahid.

Mr Bennett said this amounted to a "coup d'etat" and that Mr Mujahid had been involved with the mosques for more than 20 years.

'Attack'

The hearing was told Mr Asghar had tried to act as a mediator in the dispute, but the five then turned against him.

Mr Bennett said there followed a "concerted policy" from the five to "attack" Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid "as much as possible".

A newsletter containing allegations was distributed at a meeting of Muslims in Newport, he said.

A "dossier" of allegations, he added, was handed to assembly Conservative group leader Andrew RT Davies as part of their broader effort to "denigrate" the men.

Mr Bennett said this was done because Mr Asghar was, as a politician, "vulnerable to public attack".

On Tuesday, the judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said he had received a medical note from one of the respondents, Mohammad Ali Hayat, who is representing himself.

The note stated that Mr Hayat would not be able to return to proceedings this week.

£170,000 damages

Mr Justice Baker said the case would therefore be adjourned until he and the parties' legal representatives were next available.

Mr Justice Baker said he will not be available until December at the earliest.

David Leathley, who is representing Shokat Bhutt, indicated he may not be available in December, meaning the trial will probably not resume until 2015.

A transcript of proceedings so far will now be produced.

The respondents have not yet been cross-examined.

Earlier this year, Mr Asghar and Mr Mujahid were awarded £170,000 in damages from an Urdu newspaper and two of its staff.

Last week the judge told the court that, under the procedures relating to defamation cases, it will not be possible for the two men to receive further damages if they win this case because the allegations are the same.

Whichever party loses the case is likely to be liable for costs worth tens of thousands of pounds.

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