Amy DaleChief Court Reporter
The Daily Telegraph
September 25 2015.
A MAN who participated in Sydney’s Hyde Park Muslim protests has rejected the suggestion he’s a supporter of Islamic State, or ISIS, claiming several posts on his Facebook profile — some of which appeared to be sympathetic to ISIS — had not been written by him, a court was told yesterday.
The claim by Hamza Cheikho, 22, follows evidence he gave on Tuesday and yesterday when he said his comments on a TV interview at the time of the protests in 2012 suggesting he supported beheading the maker of a YouTube video had been “taken out of context” — and also that he “wasn’t paying attention” to the reporter’s question.
Mr Cheikho is suing Nationwide News, the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, in the NSW Supreme Court in relation to four articles that appeared in the fortnight following the protests, during which several police officers were injured and Mr Cheikho was photographed with Khaled Sharrouf, who went on to become one of Islamic State’s most brutal terrorists in the Middle East.
The publisher is defending the case on grounds including truth and honest opinion.
Under re-examination by his counsel Tom Molomby SC, Mr Cheikho again addressed an ABC news bulletin in which he replied “yeah” in answer to the question “So you agree the person who made the video (which sparked the riots) should be beheaded?”
Mr Cheikho spent much of the day yesterday being cross-examined by counsel for Nationwide News Tom Blackburn SC, largely about the contents of his Facebook page. The jury of two men and two women was shown a series of posts and updates made on Mr Cheikho’s public Facebook profile, some of which he denied posting himself.
In one post, the profile shared a photo made by a group titled “Debunking lies against ISIS”. “ISIS haters are getting so desperate they are photoshopping,” the post’s caption read. When questioned by Mr Blackburn, he said: “I’m not sure I wrote that.”
However, when questioned further, he then denied writing it.
He said he didn’t remove comments from Facebook friends saying “LOL” and “LMAO” in response to a photo of Muslim leader Dr Jamal Rifi leading prayers at the Martin Place siege memorial in the days following the December siege.
“It’s (the friend’s) opinion and I didn’t want to have an argument with him,” he said. He also said that he “doesn’t know” how to delete comments made by others.
The jury heard his page contained links to articles about the rumoured death in Syria of Sharrouf.
The hearing continues today.