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Interpal, a relief and development charity for Palestinians, has won a High Court battle against Express Newspapers which falsely accused it of supporting Hamas.
Express Newspapers apologised to Interpal and agreed to pay £60,000 to the charity’s trustees and their legal costs after the High Court ruled in Interpal’s favour. The trustees, Ibrahim Hewitt, Essam Mustafa, Shahan Husain, Ghassan Faour, Ismail Ginwalla and Mohammed Rafiq Vindhani have pledged to donate the £60,000 to Interpal.
From 27 December 2009 to 15 January 2010 the Sunday Express ran an online article entitled “Jet bomb ordered by 9/11 spiritual leader” regarding the attempted terrorist attack to blow up a plane over the United States on Christmas Day. In it, the publisher claimed that Interpal was “Hamas-supporting”. Under UK law the Gaza ruling organisation is deemed a terrorist organisation and so the newspaper accused Interpal of aiding terrorism.
In a statement released on its website Express.co.uk the organisation said: “We accept that this is wrong and neither Interpal nor its trustees support Hamas. We wish to apologise to Interpal and its trustees and are happy to set the record straight.”
A spokesperson for the charity was keen to further express its position: “The High Court heard that Interpal does not support Hamas and would not enjoy its charitable status in this country if it did support Hamas.
“Interpal is not affiliated to any political (let alone terrorist) organisation, whether officially or unofficially, nor does it support any such organisations.”
Interpal has been subject to and cleared in three Charity Commission investigations in 1996, 2003 and 2008.
In the latter case Interpal was investigated following a BBC Panorama programme shown in 2006 which claimed that Interpal was supporting Hamas. While Interpal was cleared in 2009 as the Commission found a clear financial audit trail, it also ordered Interpal to cut all ties with charity coalition Union for Good whose president was known to promote violence as legitimate resistance in occupied Palestinian territories. At the time Interpal’s vice chairman was also general secretary of Union for Good.
In 2009 Lloyds TSB withdrew clearing facilities for Interpal's accounts with the Islamic Bank of Britain because of Lloyd's affiliations with the United States which deems Interpal as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”. Lloyds advised at the time that: “Without the due legal procedures, the US designation process presents a political blockade to charities working in politically-sensitive areas such as Palestine.”
Since 1994 Interpal has supported hundreds of humanitarian, educational, medical and community development projects for Palestinians in aid.
The charity's trustees told Civil Society: "We are all pleased that the Express has accepted that the extremely serious allegation is completely untrue and should never have been published.
"We work hard to help provide essential humanitarian relief and development aid to those in need and such false allegations simply serve to undermine this important work. We are happy to donate the £60,000 damages to the charity's funds."
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