Tamil hunger striker wins damages from British papers

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A Sri Lankan Tamil demonstrator who went on hunger strike outside London's Houses of Parliament accepted damages Thursday from British newspapers who accused him of eating burgers during the action.

Parameswaran Subramanyam will receive nearly 80,000 pounds (95,000 euros, 125,000 dollars) from the Daily Mail and the Sun tabloids, his lawyer said.

Subramanyam spent 23 days last year fasting as part of a protest by thousands of British Tamils about the treatment of their people in Sri Lanka. He later spent five days in hospital recovering.

The two newspapers falsely alleged that the 29-year-old had secretly eaten burgers from McDonalds during his hunger strike.

Parameswaran sued them for libel at the High Court in London and the newspapers have now apologised, withdrawn the allegations and agreed to pay damages totalling nearly 80,000 pounds.

"The claimant did not consume any food at all throughout his hunger strike," judge David Eady said in his ruling.

"The articles strike at the heart of the claimant's integrity, undermining the single achievement for which he became known and respected."

Eady said Parameswaran had been "ostracised" by Tamils after the untrue stories were published because they believed he had "betrayed" them and "undermined the Tamil struggle globally".

Parameswaran said he had thought about committing suicide after the newspapers published their stories because of the criticism he faced from other Tamils.

"I had death threats through mobile and text and all over the Tamil community they were spreading texts like 'kill Parameswaran' and 'bastard'," he told AFP.

© 2010 AFP

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