UK politician awarded $436,000 pay-out from Iranian state-affiliated channel

UK politician awarded $436,000 pay-out from Iranian state-affiliated channel
Former MP Nadhim Zahawi has won a case against Press TV who claimed he facilitated oil trade between Islamic State group militants and Israel.
3 min read
04 May, 2017
Zahawi (pictured right) with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron [Archive/Getty]

A UK Conservative MP has been granted a £338,000 ($436,391) pay-out after winning a libel case against Iranian state television channel Press TV in a British court.

In July 2015 Press TV published an article on its English-language website implying that Nadhim Zahawi, who is of Kurdish background and was born in Iraq, had facilitated the trade of oil between Islamic State group militants and the state of Israel.

Zahawi was a leading member of the UK's foreign affairs select committee and has previously criticised Iran's role in the Middle East region.

The former MP for Stratford-on-Avon (who is not currently a lawmaker as the British parliament has been dissolved until after the 8 June general election) is set to receive a huge pay-off after the presiding judge ruled that the allegations made by Press TV were "exceptionally grave". 

This includes a £200,000 ($258,220) for damages and over £138,000 ($178,171) in expenses. 

In a statement released on Thursday, Zahawi described the allegations brought against him as "ludicrous".

"(That I) firstly betrayed all of my deepest held moral principles, and secondly had somehow managed to avoid international security services, and the law, to personally trade oil with Daesh was of course completely untrue," read the statement.

"In my role as a member the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have often spoken out against the malign influence Iran has so often chosen to exercise in international affairs. It was of particular note that the libellous article was published on the exact same day that I had publicly criticised Iran in Parliament.

"I hope that this libel judgment can draw a line under this episode and deter outlets such as Press TV, and by extension states such as Iran, from attempting this sort of attack on anyone again," he added.

He said he was forced to defend himself to family members, friends, constituents, fellow lawmakers, the party and media.

"It was a profoundly embarrassing and deeply upsetting experience for my family and me," he added.

Speaking at London's High Court on Thursday, Master Victoria McCloud said that Zahawi's reputation had been "seriously tarnished" as a result of the false claims.

McCloud has also filed an injunction to prevent a republication of the July 2015 article.

Press TV was taken off air in the UK in 2012 and fined £100,000 by the UK's Ofcom media watchdog - and restricted to the internet - after broadcasting an interview with Maziar Bahari, a jailed Iranian-Canadian journalist, which took place under duress.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously received criticism for accepting £20,000 from the Iranian state-affiliated channel for interviews conducted between 2009 and 2012.

Questioned last year about the appearances Corbyn said that they had enabled him to "raise a number of human rights issues".

"I was able to raise a number of human rights issues, not just in Iran but other countries as well - and the money I was paid, which wasn't an enormous amount actually, went on my constituency office," said Corbyn speaking in September 2016.