Nippon TV loses libel case

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TOKYO -- Japanese pubcaster Nippon Television Network Corp. lost a libel suit Friday and was ordered to compensate a Bangladeshi man for its reporting on his 43-day detention by police on suspicion of being a member of an Al Qaeda terrorist cell.

The Tokyo District Court ordered the company to pay Mohamed Himu Islam ?2.2 million ($18,800) in damages after ruling that the broadcaster had failed to verify information leaked by police officers and reported that he had raised a large amount of money for Al Qaeda by selling fake prepaid phone cards.

"I live in Japan with my family, I pay my taxes and I want no trouble, but, because I am Muslim, I've had nothing but problems," said 36-year-old Himu, who lives in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo. "The police have links with the media and the media have broadcast this story all over the world."

Himu, who also has successfully sued Kyodo News for ?1.7 million ($14,500), said that by sending information around the world regarding his detention, Japanese police have infringed on his human rights.

An application for a visa for Malaysia has been turned down, relatives in Canada, Holland and France have been investigated and his telecommunications business in Japan faces bankruptcy.

Himu, who is married to a Japanese national and set up Ryo International Co. after arriving in Japan in 1995, was detained at his home in May 2004.

Police were investigating a link to Lionel Dumont, a French national of Algerian descent, who was arrested in Germany in December 2003 on terrorism charges.

Official concern in Japan was that a terrorist cell was operational and raising funds for Al Qaeda.

Himu had sold Dumont a phone card, which brought him to the attention of the authorities here.

Lawyer Takashi Furukawa said his client was unlikely to sue the police for leaking the information to the media because any suit was very unlikely to be successful.

The judge criticized NTV for broadcasting information that could have been shown to be false with a closer examination of the details provided by police.

In a statement, NTV officials said they are "considering carefully" the court's decision and will make a decision on their next step in the near future. Kyodo News has appealed the court's ruling.
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