Hassine Ouguenoune, a former officer in the Algerian intelligence services, was successful in his libel action against the publishers of Asharq Al Awsat, a leading Arabic newspaper published throughout the UK and Europe.
Mr Ouguenoune, who was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom in 1999, obtained substantial damages, a full statement in open court, and a prominent apology in respect of an article which appeared in Asharq Al Awsat on 9 November 2002.
Former Algerian Intelligence Officer Wins Libel Case Against Leading Arabic Newspaper
02 April 2004
The settlement of libel proceedings between Hassine Ouguenoune and the publishers of Asharq Al Awsat (the well-known daily Arabic language newspaper) was announced in the High Court today, with the reading out by the parties’ solicitors of a joint Statement in Open Court. A copy of this statement is attached.
Mr Ouguenoune is a former officer of the Algerian Intelligence Services who is now resident in the United Kingdom, having been granted political asylum by the UK government in 1999.
Mr Ouguenoune (represented by Carter-Ruck) had commenced the Court proceedings against the publishers of Asharq Al Awsat over an article which appeared on 9 November 2002. The article reported a number of extremely serious, yet entirely false, allegations which had been made by a third party, suggesting that during his time as an intelligence officer, Mr Ouguenoune was instrumental in the activities of the notorious Armed Islamic Group (“GIA”), a savage terrorist organisation which was responsible for the Paris Metro bombings of 1995 and the hijacking of an Air France airliner in 1994.
In court today, through their solicitor, the Defendants acknowledged that the allegations which they had published were entirely false. They apologised to Mr Ouguenoune and undertook not to repeat the allegations in the future. The Defendants also agreed to pay Mr Ouguenoune substantial damages, together with his legal costs, and have agreed to publish a prominent and full summary of the statement in open Court on the pages of Asharq Al Awsat.
The Court also heard that Mr Ouguenoune in fact deplores the actions of the GIA and for that matter the actions of all terrorists and those behind them.
Speaking today, Mr Ouguenoune said “I am delighted that this dispute has come to a successful conclusion. Above all, I am pleased that the Defendants have acknowledged that the very serious allegations which they printed were entirely untrue. I am, and have always been, vehemently opposed to all forms of terrorism and I am pleased that I can now get on with my life without these grave allegations hanging over me”.
Enquiries to Adam Tudor at Carter-Ruck.
Tel No: 020 7353 5005
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Statement in Open Court
Hassine Ouguenoune and (1) HH Saudi Research and Marketing UK Limited (2) Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
2 April 2004
My Lord, in this action I appear for the Claimant, Mr Hassine Ouguenoune.
Mr Ouguenoune is Algerian by birth and is a former officer of the Algerian Intelligence Services, having held the post of Captain in the Central Army Security Directorate. He now lives as a refugee in the United Kingdom, having been granted political asylum by the UK Government in 1999.
My friend Mr John Farrell appears for the Defendants. The First Defendant is and was at all material times the publisher of Asharq Al-Awsat, a daily Arabic language newspaper with a substantial circulation and readership among the Arabic-speaking communities, both in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.
The Second Defendant is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
On page 6 of the issue of Asharq Al-Awsat for 9 November 2002, the Defendants published an article under the headline of which the true English translation is “A FORMER ALGERIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER SUES A FRENCH TELEVISION CHANNEL”.
The article reported allegations which had been made by a third party to the effect that Mr Ouguenoune had, whilst an officer in the Algerian Intelligence Services, helped to recruit Jamal Zitouni, the then leader of the GIA, a particularly violent and savage terrorist organisation which was responsible for the Paris Metro bombings of 1995 and the hijacking of an Air France airliner in 1994, and that Mr Ouguenoune bore responsibility for thousands of other crimes which had been committed by the GIA.
The article also reported allegations that Mr Ouguenoune further bore responsibility for such acts as causing the GIA to murder moderates in the Islamic Salvation Front and the execution of terrorist attacks against France as part of a strategy conceived by the Algerian intelligence services to prevent the French government from supporting Algerian Islamic fundamentalists.
Finally, the article reported an allegation that the “Algerian Free Officers”, under the name of which Mr Ouguenoune operated a website, was no more than a front for the GIA.
As the Defendants now accept, these allegations were simply, and entirely, untrue.
In fact, Mr Ouguenoune played no part whatsoever in the recruitment of Mr Zitouni. Furthermore Mr Ouguenoune had no involvement, and was not in any way complicit, in the atrocities committed by the GIA.
As the Defendants also now acknowledge, the Algerian Free Officers website (www.anp.org) is not in any way supportive of the GIA, let alone a “front” for it, as was alleged in the article.
Mr Ouguenoune deplores the actions of the GIA and for that matter the actions of all terrorists and those behind them.
The Defendants now wholly accept and recognise that the allegations contained in the article were not true. In recognition of that, they have agreed to join in making this statement in open Court. They have agreed to pay Mr Ouguenoune damages, as well as to undertake not to repeat the seriously defamatory allegations contained in the article, or any similar allegations concerning Mr Ouguenoune.
Solicitor for the Defendants
My Lord, as has been stated, in publishing the article complained of, Asharq Al-Awsat was reporting allegations made by a third party concerning Mr Ouguenoune, without seeking to adopt them as being true.
The Defendants now accept Mr Ouguenoune’s assurances that the allegations in the article were entirely false. Accordingly, the Defendants wish to offer their sincerest apologies to Mr Ouguenoune for the damage, distress and embarrassment which the publication of the article will have caused him.
Solicitor for the Claimant
My Lord in all the circumstances, Mr Ouguenoune’s object in bringing these proceedings has been achieved.
Solicitors for the Claimant
Solicitors for the Defendants