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Daily Mail article was a source of defamation for Shahbaz Sharif : Justice Matthew Nicklin

British court has ruled that the Daily Mail’s report was defamatory and ruled in favor of PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif link and son-in-law Ali Imran in a preliminary hearing. A more detailed hearing will follow, with the court declaring the Daily Mail link article seriously damaging to the reputation of the two.

Justice Nicklin said that that the words used in the David Rose authored article can be considered slanderous. He further said that the article showed the highest form of defamation, declaring the Shehbaz guilty of corruption on the basis of presumptions without any solid evidence to back up the claim.

Adrienne Page QC, appearing for Shahbaz Sharif, told the judge that the Daily Mail article illustrated connections between Shahbaz and the UK government and then alleged that he was involved in corruption.

The lawyer took the court through the whole article and said the article was defamatory from the start till the end — lacking evidence but making baseless allegations of fraud and money-laundering.

“The Daily Mail article implicated the former chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif as involved in suspected theft of UK taxpayers money. That was hugely damaging and ashamed Mr Sharif in the eyes of the British readers and to readers in Pakistan, a country which benefits hugely from the UK’s aid to its country. The suggestion that his administration was involved in stealing the UK’s money was a grave allegation.”

She further said that the article declared that he was “guilty of corruption” and “beneficiary of the laundered money from the UK. The allegation of laundered money was conveyed as a fact in the article. “Whose money has been stolen? Money laundering is criminal misconduct, but who was victimised and where is the proof? Where is the stolen money? Where is the evidence? Where is the evidence of kickbacks and misappropriation?

The lawyer said that Shahbaz’s son denied the money-laundering and corruption allegations, but the paper used Akbar and Transparency International’s statements to slander her client.

“The headlines, the captions, the build-up of the article, Mail on Sunday’s campaign against overseas funding, the end of the article. This was all defamatory. This is the heart of it all that that claimant is a beneficiary of the laundered money,” she told the court.

Barrister Victoria Simon-Shore appeared for Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf. She told the court that her client rejected all allegations of corruption, misuse of funds, and money-laundering. She said the allegation in the article that Yousaf “mysteriously accumulated” money because his in-laws were in power was far from the truth.

“The investigations are ongoing and nothing has been determined. The presumption of innocent till proven guilty applies,” she told Justice Nicklin.

The Mail’s lawyer defended the publication of the article and said that it was in the public interest and it always happens that investigations are carried out after such stories are published pointing out wrongdoings.

Daily Mail journalist David Rose tweeted, saying, “It seems some in Pakistan are claiming that the London judge in today’s hearing in the Shehbaz Sharif case has said our evidence is not “up to the mark.”

Adding further, he said the Judge made no such comment. “Today’s hearing is not a victory for anyone. It was strictly preliminary.”

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