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Soccer star mistaken for terrorist

October 14, 2003 19:24 IST

Sky News has been forced to issue an on-air apology after it mistakenly identified a former Tunisian World Cup football star as a disciple of Osama bin Laden, reports The Guardian.

In an incident that has echoes of the BBC's £500,000 libel of African diamond firm Oryx, Sky News confused former Tunisian captain Sami Trabelsi with convicted terrorist Nizar Trabelsi, the paper said.  

The  news bulletin reporting Nizar Trabelsi's imprisonment for 10 years for plotting to blow up a canteen at a US air force base mistakenly used a photograph of his namesake, Sami Trabelsi.

'On Tuesday, September 30, 2003, we broadcast throughout the day in our news bulletin, a photograph of Mr Sami Trabelsi, the Tunisian footballer and former captain of his country's national team,' Sky said in its apology.

'The photograph was broadcast in error as part of a news item on the conviction of a Mr Nazir Trabelsi, a Tunisian national convicted in a Belgian court on terrorist charges in connection with al Qaeda. We accept that Sami Trabelsi has no connection with any terrorist organisation and recognise that he is a well-respected figure within the Tunisian community. Sky News apologises to Sami Trabelsi for its error and for any distress and embarrassment that this may have caused.'

According to The Guardian, "Yesterday's on-air apology was the result of discussions between lawyers representing the footballer and Sky News. It is understood lawyers for the footballer, who was captain of his national team during the 1998 World Cup in France, are still negotiating a damages payout."

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