Amy Dale Chief Court Reporter
The Daily Telegraph
September 23 2015
But Hamza Cheikho, 22, yesterday told the court his quote had been “taken out of context”.
Moments before he was shown the footage from an ABC news bulletin, Mr Cheikho had told a jury he did not agree anyone who insults Islam should be punished by decapitation.
Mr Cheikho is suing Nationwide News, publisher of The Daily Telegraph, for defamation over four articles published in the days following the violent September, 2012, protests, during which several police officers were injured.
The publisher is defending the claims on grounds including truth and honest opinion.
The Supreme Court also heard Mr Cheikho attended a conference organised by radical Islamic group Hizb Ut-Tahrir the day after the riots, but he said during his evidence that he “wasn’t sure” if Hizb Ut-Tahrir was a radical group.
“You say, do you, that you don’t agree with the view that a person who insults Islam should be decapitated?” Tom Blackburn SC, counsel for Nationwide News, asked him.
“Yes (I don't agree),” Mr Cheikho said.
“And this was the view you held at the time?”
But the jury of two men and two women who are hearing the case were then immediately shown the news footage, in which Mr Cheikho is asked for his view on beheading those responsible for a YouTube film that was deemed insulting to Islam and Mohammed.
He was being interviewed following public outrage about a placard brandished at the Hyde Park protest, including by a child, which read: “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.”
“It (the placard) wasn’t for the Police Commissioner, it was for the individual who made the video,” Mr Cheikho says in the interview, broadcast by the ABC the day after the riots.
“So you agree the person who made the video should be beheaded?” the reporter asks.
Mr Cheikho replies: “Yeah.”
When questioned in court yesterday by Mr Blackburn about the inconsistency, Mr Cheikho said he had been “taken out of context” and he had been explaining off camera about “Islamic law” and didn’t pay attention to that question.
“The Islamic rule is whoever insults the prophet or curses at the prophet ... the Islamic rule is that they be decapitated,” Mr Cheikho told the jury.
Mr Cheikho earlier said he was not “embarrassed” or “ashamed” to have been at a protest where some had called for the beheading of the person who made the film.
“I put it to you, Mr Cheikho, that after what you said to the ABC you don’t have any right to feel respected about your views on Islam. Do you agree with that proposition?” Mr Blackburn said.
“No,” Mr Cheikho said.
The hearing resumes tomorrow before Justice Lucy McCallum.