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Tuesday, July 25, 2006 

"Dangerously deceitful, ruthless, exploitative and corrupt."


Oh dear. Poor Mazher Mahmood, the notoriously private "fake sheikh" who objects to having his photograph being published but is more than happy to ruin the lives of entirely innocent people to help the sales of the News of the Screws, is once again left looking like a liar and fantasist of the highest order.

In surprisingly similar circumstances to the Victoria Beckham kidnap plot which never was, the trial of three men accused by the News of the Screws of attempting to buy "red mercury" for terrorist purposes has ended with all of them being found not guilty. Mahmood was told of the "plot" by someone known only as "Mr B" - which echoes what happened in the case of the Beckham kidnap plot, as then Mahmood was informed of the plan by a man called Florim Ghasi - who was paid £10,000 for his trouble, which when revealed led to the collapse of the trial. You have to wonder whether Mr B was also given a large cheque for his helpful assistance to Mr Mahmood.

The acquittal again raises questions about the police's relationship with the News of the Screws, as well as the seeming acquiescence of the Crown Prosecution Service in once again allowing itself to be humiliated for the purposes of enriching a certain R Murdoch. Their healthy relationship with the Screws is something that out to be examined by parliament - Rebekah Wade herself admitted that police officers had in the past been paid for information.

The whole trial was based around the mythical substance red mercury - most recently used as a plot device in an episode of the BBC series Spooks, where a chemistry professor at a university offered to sell some to a student from a terrorist organisation in order to entrap them in the process. Any self-respecting jihadi would know that red mercury is complete and utter bollocks - there's plenty of recipes out there on the internet for bomb-making without searching for a made-up chemical substance that could be used in a dirty bomb - a scenario that has been hyped out of all proportion (a BBC Horizon programme showed how ineffective such a bomb would be).

One of the defendants claimed in the case that he was interested in a liquid called red mercury that could be used wash discoloured money, which is a bit daft as any fule knows that you can clean dirty coins using either vinegar or coke. This is doubtless why it took the jury 30 hours of deliberations before they reached their not guilty verdict. Nevertheless, none of the evidence used against them, including Mahmood's own testimony suggested that they had been anything other than pawns in the News of the Screws' and Mahmood's game.

Unlike in the case of Mahmood versus Galloway, the defence lawyers were uncowed and vociferous in their condemnation of both Mahmood and the journalism of the Screws. Jeremy Dein QC said:
the "sensationalised" story was solely about bringing the paper "commercial gain" and "personal kudos". And he accused Mahmood of being a "manipulative" person who "exploited others".

"He [Mahmood] is certainly charismatic and highly intelligent but we submit he is dangerously deceitful, ruthless, exploitative and corrupt.

"[He has] an egotistical obsession with extracting front page terror stories on the streets of Britain."

He added that the substituted headline should have been: "Anti-terrorist caught up in Mazza plot to clinch terror glory".

Mr Dein said that his client was a "fierce opponent of terrorism".

Earlier in the case, Stephen Solley QC had accused the Screws and Mahmood of engaging in "backdoor vigilantism" - forcing the police into investigating alleged crimes through their hyperbolic and sensational reporting. So damaging were the accusations leveled against the Screws and Mahmood that the judge at the end of the case tried desperately to infer that the case was not about the abhorrent, arrogant journalism which the Screws indulges in, but rather about the suspects non-existent plot. The failure of the prosecution however shows that is exactly what the Screws and Mahmood do: they build celebrities up, then they knock them down. In the case of the Victoria Beckham kidnap plot and today's not guilty verdicts, it shows how incredibly careful you have to be: the slightest fantasy about kidnapping a famous person or trying to gain a mythical substance can lead to you being in the dock.

Where does all this leave Mr Mahmood? As can be expected, he's still be robustly defended by his employers:
A spokeswoman for the News of the World said the paper was "disappointed" with the outcome of the trial but was "entirely satisfied" that the investigation was conducted with "wholly proper" methods and in close liaison with the police.

"Our story resulted from a thorough and legitimate investigation by Mazher Mahmood, one of the paper's most senior and experienced reporters, whose exposes have led to over 200 convictions," she said.

The most hilarious thing about this is how Mahmood's "investigations" seem to be leading to more and more convictions without any publicity being given to them. Back in April the Screws claimed that he had been responsible for 130 criminals being prosecuted and found guilty. 3 months later and this has jumped by 70.

Mamhood and his journalism are then again back in the dock. Despite having his life being threatened by bloggers who dared to publish old photographs of him, he shows no sign of stopping being corrupt, ruthless and arrogant, as evidenced by his recent escapade of kidnapping "illegal immigrants" and transporting them to a detention centre where those being kept there had been on hunger strike over the conditions. Mahmood thus lives up to the very worst stereotype of a tabloid journalist; no morals, no conscience and no ethics. He's also more than willing to go along with politically motivated stunts to discredit anti-war MPs; his attempts to show George Galloway as being corrupt led to him being unmasked, an investigation which the Screws never published, mainly because it was so ham-fisted and anti-semitic in its tone. Jeremy Corbyn, another left wing anti-Iraq war MP was to be the next target.

Doubtless, Mahmood will soon return to being the Screws' star reporter. He'll still probably expose more minor celebrities for being hypocrites, or entrap some into buying drugs which he himself bought for them. The only action then is to write to the NotW and tell them what you think about how they have persecuted innocent people for sales purposes, while still claiming to be representing the public at large in their endless campaign for "Sarah's law". your.letters@notw.co.uk is the address. Alternatively you can write to Mahmood himself, or even phone his desk. His phone number is 020 7782 4402 or you can email him at maz@notw.co.uk. He'll no doubt be happy to discuss his principled, caring and public-spirited journalism with you.

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