Imam to pay up over defamatory statements

An imam who claimed a Melbourne man he had never met was an "ISIS promoter" has been ordered to pay $20,000 in aggravated damages.

Imam Mohammad Tawhidi made the claims on social media, where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.

His victim was Moustafa Awad, a migration agent known as Matt.

He was also sued for defamation in Victoria's Supreme Court after trading barbs on his own social media.

The case against Mr Awad, brought by Mr Tawhidi, was rejected on Friday by Justice Andrew Keogh.

He found while Mr Awad had made defamatory statements against the Adelaide-based imam, he did so believing it was the honest truth.

In 2019 after reading Mr Tawhidi's book, Mr Awad posted online to his 20 followers that "I hope he saves a hero the hassle and kills himself".

To his 137 Twitter followers he posted that Mr Tawhidi was a perfect match for controversial Senator Pauline Hanson, and that legislation before parliament should include "poisoning that c*** Tawhidi".

The counter-statements made by Mr Tawhidi had no legitimate defence, the court heard.

Mr Tawhidi posted screenshots of Mr Awad's statements on his own social media, for hundreds of thousands of followers to see, urging them to "report this extremist".

He gave out Mr Awad's phone number, email address and business profile, and posted a video online talking about an extremist Muslim who was bringing migrants to Australia.

Imputations that Mr Awad promoted ISIS as part of a migration strategy to bring people to Australia were made, the judge found.

The claims were serious, particularly for a lawyer and migration agent, Justice Keogh found.

"While I accept that Awad did not have an unblemished reputation and his offensive behaviour was not insignificant, the unsubstantiated allegations published by Tawhidi are likely to have had a more serious impact on Awad's reputation than his own conduct," he said.

Both men fell well short of the laudable ideals they each purported to espouse, he found.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636