Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Mosque dispute: legal paperwork is "disgrace" and "appalling"

A Stepney mosque faces massive legal costs as its management committee attempts to exclude opponents from the premises.

The management of the Shah Jalal Mosque on Duckett Street in Stepney intends to sue the same worshippers for libel and has initiated further legal proceedings in order to take full control of the mosque's bank accounts. The potential costs could be enormous and put an end to the new mosque plans.

As the number of hearings and bundles of paperwork mount the defendants claim that the mosque has spent £90,000 of charity's £600,000 on its solicitors.

At the hearing on Tuesday a number of technical details were discussed.

The presiding Judge, Justice Elizabeth Slade heard the claimants’ case for excluding 11 worshippers. But the hearing was held up several times by inconsistent paperwork provided by the claimants’ Stratford-based solicitors Bowling and Co.

At one point in the hearing Judge Slade said: “This is a disgrace, that the documents haven’t been properly serviced and that counsel (for the defendants) is meant to be dealing with this case without the same documents that others are dealing with in court.”

The judge later described the situation as “an appalling state of affairs” and demanded that the claimants representatives get their paperwork in order. One of the claimants’ junior solicitors was asked to help the defendants’ barrister identify the documents the court was considering.

Both parties claimed to be trying to minimise costs.

A number of allegations have been made by both sides in the dispute. The claimants say that the 11 defendants have used violence, intimidation and defamation to take control of the mosque.

The allegations against the claimants include theft, fraud and having abused their positions of responsibility within the mosque.

One of the key issues concerning Judge Slade was that the claimants' case was not specific to each defendant: “I’m concerned about the lack of specificity even if the 25 July meeting is taken as authorised, the word ‘associates’ is an extremely broad term."

She asked the prosecution to provide individually identifiable evidence at the Wednesday hearing.

Both sides have consulted Muslim clerics to substantiate their claims about the use of the mosque.

At one point the Judge said: “Are you saying that members of the congregation who express a view that they have lost faith in those who are running the organisation warrants the banning of these individuals from the premises?"

Mr Cakebread, barrister for the claimants said: "No. If I’m inclined to take the view that my priest is not a good priest or the arch bishop of Canterbury (is not a good bishop), then I’m entitled to express that view.

"But am I entitled to go into that church and explain this view from the pulpit? My submission is that no, you are not and not entitled to put up notices that are highly defamatory of my priest or the ArchBishop of Canterbury.

“Members of the congregation are entitled to express their view but what we say is that they are not entitled to express their views inside the mosque."

Counsel for the defence, Mr Al Mustakim, pointed out that the mosque's imam, not its trustees was the equivalent to a priest.

He also said: “What in effect these trustees are trying to do is bypass the other 15 trustees on a point which is so fundamental it goes to the very heart of the purpose and function of the mosque. It goes against the teaching of the Koran which forbids people from excluding fellow worshippers in undertaking their prayer and flies in the face of what a mosque is all about."

A crowd of about forty people filled court five apparently in support of the defendants.

No comments:

Post a comment