The Daily Telegraph has apologised to an alleged top-ranking Comanchero gang member and withdrawn “any suggestion” he was involved in the murder of former Comanchero boss Mick Hawi, bringing to an end a lengthy Federal Court defamation fight.
In an apology published on Tuesday, the Telegraph said it “apologises for the hurt caused to” Ali Bazzi over two reports in August 2018 linking him to the shooting death of Mr Hawi earlier that year and “withdraws any suggestion of wrong doing” by him in relation to the murder.
Mr Bazzi launched defamation proceedings against the Telegraph‘s publisher, Nationwide News, in October 2018 over reports on August 23 and 25 that suggested he met the men who were later charged with the murder of Mr Hawi prior to his shooting.
In documents filed in court, Mr Bazzi claimed the stories carried the defamatory meanings that he sanctioned and plotted the death of Mr Hawi.
“[Mr Azzi] has been brought into hatred, ridicule and contempt and has been gravely injured in his character and reputation and has suffered hurt and embarrassment and has suffered and will continue to suffer loss and damage,” his statement of claim said.
Mr Hawi was gunned down outside a Rockdale gym in February 2018 and three men associated with the Lone Wolf bikie gang face charges relating to the murder.
Lawyers for Mr Azzi and Nationwide News are expected to inform the Federal Court on March 4 that the defamation proceedings have been settled. The terms of the settlement are confidential but the articles have been removed from the Telegraph‘s website.
Nationwide News had initially attempted to defend the proceedings, including by arguing that the articles did not convey the defamatory meanings claimed by Mr Azzi and, even if they did, they could not have further harmed his reputation as an alleged top-ranking member of a “notoriously violent criminal bikie gang”.
Mr Hawi was president of the Comancheros outlaw motorcycle gang until he was jailed over the notorious Sydney Airport brawl of 2009 that resulted in the death of a Hells Angels associate. He was released from prison in 2016 before his daylight execution in 2018.