Libyan man arrested after Manchester Attack wins 'substantial' libel damages

Emergency services at the scene after the Manchester Arena terror attack
Emergency services at the scene after the Manchester Arena terror attack
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A young Libyan man who was arrested and released without charge in the wake of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack has won "substantial" damages from his local newspaper over false allegations he was an "Isis sympathiser".

Alaedeen Sicri, now 24, was arrested because Salman Abedi - who killed 22 people and himself at an Ariana Grande concert last May - called his "publicly available" phone number in the days before the attack, the High Court in London heard on Wednesday.

Mr Sicri's barrister Sara Mansoori told Mr Justice Warby that her client had "nothing whatever to do with the attack and had no connection or affiliation with the bomber or other terrorists".

She added: "While studying to become a pilot, Mr Sicri worked part-time for a number of local companies and ran an online business to assist individuals in Libya to make online purchases from companies such as eBay and Amazon.

"His details were also on a Facebook page used by many Libyans for currency exchange."

Ms Mansoori said that Abedi contacted her client because he wanted to transfer money to Libya, but that Mr Sicri said "he was not able to assist and put the phone down when he became suspicious of a scam".

On May 31 2017, the print edition of The Argus newspaper in Brighton referred to his arrest and made "serious allegations about Mr Sicri, suggesting he was an Isis supporter", she said.

The paper also suggested 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, together with a message of respect for the dead leader on his Facebook page".

Ms Mansoori said: "These allegations are false. Mr Sicri is not, and has never been, a supporter of Isis. Mr Sicri had nothing to do with the attack in Manchester.

"He is opposed in the strongest possible terms to all violence done by Isis, including the Paris and Manchester attacks."

She added that Mr Sicri "changed his Facebook profile to a Libyan flag to show solidarity with both the French and Libyan people, together with an ordinary form of greeting in Libyan which was not an expression of support for any terrorist leader".

Ms Mansoori said Mr Sicri had "no idea" who the terrorist leader was until he read about the article.

The "false and defamatory allegations" had caused Mr Sicri "very great distress, anxiety and damage to his reputation" as The Argus published the "highly damaging allegations" to those in his local community, Ms Mansoori added.

Daniel Bishop, representing Newsquest, the publisher of The Argus, told the court the allegations were "wholly false" and said his client wished to "publicly apologise" to Mr Sicri.

He added that Newsquest would pay Mr Sicri "a substantial sum in compensation and his legal costs".

The amount of damages to be paid to Mr Sicri was not mentioned in court.