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Cabinet Minister Admits Wrongly Accusing Academic Of Supporting Hamas

Michelle Donelan leaves Downing Street.
Michelle Donelan leaves Downing Street. Anadolu via Getty Images

A cabinet minister has agreed to pay damages after wrongly accusing a senior academic of supporting Hamas.

Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, suggested on X that Professor Kate Sang had expressed sympathy for the militant group.

In fact, the top Tory had misinterpreted a post on the social media platform in which Professor Sang linking to a Guardian article on the aftermath in the UK to Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7 last year.

The academic took out a libel action, which has now been settled - with the taxpayer picking up the bill.

Ms Donelan also wrote to the UK Research and Innovation government agency suggesting that Professor Sang and a second academic, Dr Kamna Patel, had shared extremist material.

The pair, who had both appointed to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion board, were then subjected to a months-long investigation by the UKRI.

In a post this afternoon on X, Donelan said she had withdrawn her allegations.

She said: “I have never thought or claimed that Professor Sang, or any member of the Board, committed a criminal offence.

“I fully accept that she is not an extremist, a supporter of Hamas or any other proscribed organisation and I note that an independent investigation has concluded that there is no evidence that she is. I have deleted my original post to my X account.”

Tamsin Allen, who represented Professor Sang in her libel complaint, said: “Michelle Donelan has now withdrawn her false allegations and agreed to pay damages and costs to Professor Sang.”

Professor Sang said: I am delighted that this matter has now concluded, but very disturbed by the way in which Michelle Donelan and UKRI behaved.

“Had they asked me at the start, I would have explained the true position. Instead, Michelle Donelan made a cheap political point at my expense and caused serious damage to my reputation. I propose to donate part of the damages she has paid to a charity.”

Shadow science, innovation and technology secretary Peter Kyle said: “The secretary of state must prove she still has the confidence of the research community after using her department to make false allegations against academics.

“Accusing researchers of sharing extremist material and sympathising with a proscribed group, without any proof, is a new low in government standards.”

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