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Michael Fallon Is Paying Damages To The Imam He Wrongly Accused Of Backing ISIS

The defence secretary's apology to Suliman Gani came on the eve of the EU referendum vote.

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Suliman Gani

Defence secretary Michael Fallon has apologised and is paying compensation to a Muslim cleric he wrongly accused of supporting ISIS.

In a statement released the night before polls opened in the European Union referendum, Fallon admitted the claim about Suliman Gani was "entirely untrue".

Gani found himself at the centre of a row during the London mayoral election after Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith accused his Labour rival and the eventual winner, Sadiq Khan, of sharing a platform with extremists.

David Cameron said in the House of Commons during the campaign that Khan had shared a platform with Gani nine times, and that the London imam supported "IS". A spokesperson said the prime minister was referring to "an Islamic state" and not ISIS, which Cameron usually calls Daesh. Gani was unable to sue because the remarks were protected under parliamentary privilege.

The prime minister went on to apologise.

However, in an interview on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Fallon went further, calling Gani a "supporter of Daesh Islamic State".

At the time Fallon said he was quoting BBC presenter Andrew Neil, and was unaware that a correction had already been issued in that instance. Gani responded by saying he would consider legal action.

In a statement issued on his website on Wednesday, Fallon said he accepted Gani is "entirely opposed to Daesh/Islamic State, that you regard it as incompatible with your religious and moral beliefs, and that you have spoken out publicly against it".

Apologising for the error and the distress it caused to Gani and his family, Fallon said he had agreed to "make a payment of compensation and to meet your reasonable legal costs". The compensation is reported to be in the thousands.

Read the full statement:

On 7 May 2016 I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. During that interview I described you as a supporter of Daesh/Islamic State – something that is entirely untrue.

When I did this I knew that it had been said on a BBC Television programme some weeks earlier but I was unaware that the BBC had corrected that statement and had apologised to you. Had I known of that correction and apology I would not have repeated the statement.

I was made aware of the BBC’s correction and apology a few hours after the broadcast and immediately issued a statement in an effort to put the record straight. I issued a further statement to the same effect on 11 May 2016, which included my apology to you for repeating the untrue statement.

I accept that you are entirely opposed to Daesh/Islamic State, that you regard it as incompatible with your religious and moral beliefs, and that you have spoken out publicly against it.

I repeat my apology for the error that I made and for the distress that it caused to you and your family.

In recognition of that distress I have agreed to make a payment of compensation and to meet your reasonable legal costs.

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at matthew.champion@buzzfeed.com.

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