UK tabloids pay £80,000 for burger libel

LONDON, England (AFP) — A Sri Lankan Tamil demonstrator who went on hunger strike outside London’s Houses of Parliament accepted damages yesterday from British newspapers who accused him of eating burgers during his fast.

Parameswaran Subramanyam will receive nearly £80,000 (US$125,000) from the Daily Mail and the Sun tabloids, his lawyers said.

He spent 23 days last year fasting as part of a protest by thousands of British Tamils about the treatment of their people in Sri Lanka. He later spent five days in hospital recovering.

The two newspapers falsely alleged that the 29-year-old had secretly eaten burgers from McDonalds during his hunger strike.

Parameswaran sued them for libel at the High Court in London and the newspapers have now apologised, withdrawn the allegations and agreed to pay damages totalling nearly £80,000.

A statement read out in court said Parameswaran “did not consume any food at all throughout his hunger strike” and that he had been “ostracised” by Tamils after the untrue stories were published because they believed he had “betrayed” them and “undermined the Tamil struggle globally”.

Parameswaran said he had thought about committing suicide after the newspapers published their stories because of the criticism he faced from other Tamils.

“I had death threats through mobile and text and all over the Tamil community they were spreading texts like ‘kill Parameswaran’ and ‘bastard’,” he told AFP.

His solicitor Magnus Boyd added: “We are delighted that both newspapers have at last seen sense, climbed down and apologised publicly to Parameswaran for the hurt and distress that they caused him.”

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