Melanie Phillips apologises for libel

Writer and Spectator apologise to Mohammed Sawalha for alleging that he made anti-Semitic statement, pay damages and costs

Writer Melanie Phillips and the Spectator have apologised to British Muslim Initiative leader Mohammad Sawalha for an article alleging that he made an anti-Semitic statement, and have agreed to pay him damages and his legal costs.

Ms Phillips’ wrote an article for the Spectator website entitled ‘Look What Came Crawling Out’, which alleged that Mr Sawalha had made a reference to the “evil/noxious Jew in Britain” in an interview with Al Jazeera during a London protest at the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, and suggested that he was therefore fit to be compared to a scorpion.

Mr Sawalha, a Palestinian-born British citizen, complained to the publishers of the Spectator and issued libel proceedings after failing to obtain from the Spectator and Ms Phillips a retraction and apology or their agreement to remove the article.  A trial was due to take place before a judge and jury in December.

Ms Phillips and the Spectator have now published a statement on the Spectator website, headed ‘Mohammad Sawalha: Apology’, referring to the article and stating “We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such anti-Semitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.”

They have also agreed to pay him damages and his legal costs.

5RB‘s Adrienne Page QC and Richard Munden, instructed by Farooq Bajwa & Co, acted for Mr Sawalha. Yuli Takatsuki, instructed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, was junior counsel for the Spectator and Ms Phillips.