The Independent's Johann Hari returns Orwell Prize

Independent newspaper Johann Hari said he was returning the Orwell Prize as an 'act of contrition'

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Journalist Johann Hari is handing back a writing prize after an investigation into allegations he plagiarised quotes in his articles.

Mr Hari was suspended two months ago while the Independent newspaper investigated claims against him.

It says he has admitted "embellishment of quotations/plagiarism" and of using a pseudonym to attack critics online.

Mr Hari will return the Orwell Prize and take four months' unpaid leave as well as taking a journalism course.

In an online statement, the writer apologised to his readers, colleagues and "the people hurt by my actions".

"Although it has been a really painful process and will surely continue to be for some time, I think in the end I'll be grateful my flaws have also been dragged into the light in this way," he said.

Mr Hari admitted he had created a false username on Wikipedia to edit parts of his profile he did not like and also changed other people's profiles.

He said he stood by the articles that won him the prestigious Orwell Prize but was returning it as "an act of contrition" for his other mistakes.

"But this isn't much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway," he added.

A spokesman for the award said the prize "was returned this afternoon by courier".

"The Orwell Prize accepts Hari's withdrawal," it added.

'Trial by Twitter'

The allegations against Mr Hari first surfaced in June when political blog DSG found an interview he wrote in 2004 which appeared to lift words from a 2003 book about Italian communist Toni Negri.

The editor of Yahoo! Ireland and blogger Brian Whelan then randomly selected another interview written by Mr Hari and searched through the quotes. Mr Whelan said he found the Independent interview with journalist Gideon Levy had used quotes from an article in Israel's Haaretz newspaper.

In response, Mr Hari admitted he took quotes from books and interviews by other journalists but said it was so that the reader "understands their point as clearly as possible".

He wrote on his blog: "I stress: I have only ever done this where the interviewee was making the same or very similar point to me in the interview that they had already made more clearly in print."

He said he had been subject to "to trial by Twitter" and wrote an apology published in the Independent.

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst announced on 12 July that the newspaper's co-founder, Andreas Whittam Smith, was conducting an internal investigation into the claims against Mr Hari.

Mr Hari, who was born in Glasgow but grew up in London, has also written for the New York Times, Le Monde, the Los Angeles Times and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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