Man held in Manchester terror probe wins £83,000 damages after details published
A Libyan man has been awarded £83,000 in damages after his details were published online following his arrest in connection with the Manchester Arena terror attack.
Alaedeen Sicri, 26, was arrested and subsequently released without charge in the wake of the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 in which 22 people were killed.
Despite not being identified by Greater Manchester Police, MailOnline published his name, image and other personal details on May 29, following his arrest that day.
Mr Sicri sued MailOnline’s publisher, Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), for damages for alleged misuse of private information.
In a judgment delivered on Monday, Mr Justice Warby ruled that Mr Sicri “had a right to expect that the defendant would not publish his identity” as having been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Manchester Arena bombing.
The judge said that ANL “violated that right” by identifying him on the afternoon of May 29 2017, adding: “It had no, or no sufficient, public interest justification for identifying the claimant. It continued to do so.
“Later, another publisher did the same or similar. But the claimant’s right to have the defendant respect his privacy was not defeated or significantly weakened by the fact that others failed to do so.
“He is entitled to compensation. The appropriate sum is £83,000 in general and special damages.”
Mr Justice Warby said he had awarded Mr Sicri “general damages to compensate for the wrongful disclosure, the consequent loss of status, and the distress, anxiety and other emotional harm that this caused, in the sum of £50,000”.
He added that he had also awarded Mr Sicri “special damages for financial losses caused by the wrongful act in the sum of £33,000”.
At a trial in November, Mr Sicri’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said his client had suffered “extreme and severe distress” as a result of being identified as a suspect, leading to him being diagnosed with a “depressive illness”.
The High Court heard that qualified pilot Mr Sicri was arrested because the bomber, Salman Abedi, had called his phone number before the attack “seeking to exchange some Libyan currency”, a transaction Mr Sicri declined.
Mr Tomlinson said: “The police ascertained that the call was in connection with something entirely separate.
“The claimant did not know the bomber, had no connection with him, and was innocent of any involvement whatever in the attack.”
MailOnline’s story, which was updated several times throughout the day, reported that Mr Sicri, from Shoreham in West Sussex, had been arrested following the attack.
The article, which described him as a “trainee Libyan pilot”, also used two photographs of Mr Sicri, taken from his own Facebook page.
Mr Tomlinson also said that, as a result of Mr Sicri being identified, abusive messages about him were posted on Facebook, including one which read: “Another 9/11 in the making.”
“His mental health suffered and he felt paranoid and frightened for his safety,” Mr Tomlinson said.
“He felt fearful living in Shoreham-by-Sea and moved away from the town on June 22 2017.”
Mr Sicri also lost his part-time job at English Language Homestays, which provides accommodation and English lessons to foreign students, the court heard.
“Despite having completed his long-term ambition of qualifying as a pilot, the claimant was unable to get any work as a pilot,” Mr Tomlinson added.
He said Mr Sicri’s business in Libya, Hasoub Alafq, which translates as Horizon Computers, was also attacked and furniture was destroyed.
Mr Sicri also found it “impossible” to pursue his career as a commercial pilot, Mr Tomlinson said.
“It is reasonable to infer it was as a result of Google searches being carried out on the claimant which revealed the fact that he had been arrested on terrorism charges,” Mr Tomlinson said.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Warby said: “I do not see that the identification of the claimant made, or was capable of making, any contribution to any public debate about the Manchester bombing, or the investigation that followed.”
The judge went on: “It is easy to see the value to a newspaper publisher of naming individuals involved in matters that are of interest to the public.
“It makes for livelier copy, and if other publishers are naming the person it will enhance the publisher’s competitive position to do the same.
“But these are commercial imperatives or, at best, general factors in favour of a general rule that people can be named in newspapers.”
Mr Justice Warby added that it was “hard to identify a logical or rational basis for the view that the public interest required the naming of this claimant, by this defendant, in this article”.
In a separate High Court case, Mr Sicri accepted “substantial” damages from the publisher of his local newspaper in October 2018 over false allegations in a report referring to his arrest that he was an “Isis sympathiser”.
The Argus newspaper in Brighton wrongly suggested that Mr Sicri had “publicly mourned the death of an Isis leader in Libya by posting a picture of the Libyan flag when news broke of that Isis leader’s death in a US air attack”, the High Court heard in the proceedings against Newsquest.
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