Tamil hunger striker wins damages over burger claims

Parameswaran Subramanyam
Image caption Mr Subramanyam was on hunger strike for 23 days

A Tamil refugee hunger striker has accepted £77,500 in damages over newspaper reports he secretly ate burgers during his protest.

The articles in the Daily Mail and The Sun struck at the heart of Parameswaran Subramanyam's integrity and achievement, the High Court was told.

He began his 23-day protest outside the Houses of Parliament on 7 April 2009, in a bid to raise awareness of the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.

The newspapers have apologised.

Mr Subramanyam was treated in hospital for five nights after ending his hunger strike.

Six months later, the Daily Mail and The Sun ran stories which reported claims that specialist monitoring equipment had caught Mr Subramanyam secretly eating McDonald's burgers and that he had caused the police to waste a fortune in public money.

Mr Subramanyam's solicitor Magnus Boyd told Mr Justice Eady said the allegations were "entirely false", which both newspapers now accepted.

The Metropolitan Police superintendent who was in charge of the operation in Parliament Square confirmed that there was no police surveillance team using "specialist monitoring equipment" and that no video evidence existed.

Victoria Jolliffe, counsel for News Group Newspapers and Associated Newspapers, said they withdrew all the allegations and apologised sincerely and unreservedly for the hurt and distress caused.

"The Sun has agreed to pay £30,000 in compensation and the Daily Mail will pay £47,500," Mr Boyd told the BBC.

Ms Jolliffe said that Associated published the article - upon which News Group's article was then based - in good faith based on information that, at the time, was understood to be reliable.

Afterwards, Mr Subramanyam said: "The past eight months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life.

"As a result of the lies that the newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community.

"I felt I had a responsibility to all those who had supported me during the hunger strike, and were sullied by association with me, to take legal action against both newspapers to prove that the allegations that were published were false."

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