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Qatar ruler's wife wins libel case in UK court

January 26, 2005

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LONDON, Jan 25: The wife of the ruler of Qatar won a libel case on Tuesday against the British-based Arabic newspaper Azzaman, which had falsely accused her of interfering in Qatari state affairs and secret dealings with Israel.

Sheikha Mouza al-Misnad's lawyers had produced documents which they said showed Azzaman was controlled by Saudi intelligence paymasters who used the newspaper as a mouthpiece for a propaganda campaign against Qatar and its leadership.

The documents also showed that Azzaman executives set up a "Centre for the Defence of the Press and Intellectual Freedom in the Arab World" intended to attract Saudi dissidents in exile so Saudi authorities could monitor them.

Azzaman, edited by Iraqi national Saad al-Bazzaz, settled out of court, agreeing to publish a front-page apology to Sheikha Mouza and pay her more than 500,000 pounds in damages and costs for allegations published in June and July 2001.

In view of the documents showing Azzaman's links to the Saudis, Justice David Eady ruled that the daily could not claim protection on the grounds that it was an independent newspaper.

The newspaper and its editors now accept "there was no truth whatsoever in any of the allegations they had published", according a statement read in court on Tuesday.

Sheikha Mouza, an active advocate of women's empowerment and other causes, will donate the damages to two charities, Medical Aid for Palestinians and an Iraqi education fund, her lawyers said. Bazzaz held senior media positions in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule until his defection in the 1990s. -Reuters