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The U.K.’s science secretary has paid damages to a professor whom she suggested had expressed sympathy for Hamas.

Earlier, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced that it had found no evidence of wrongdoing by members of Research England’s expert advisory group on equality, diversity and inclusion, who had been the subject of a social media post by the science secretary, Michelle Donelan, in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent retaliation in Gaza.

Now the law firm Bindmans has confirmed that Donelan has paid undisclosed damages to one of the panel members, Kate Sang, professor of gender and employment studies at Heriot-Watt University. The bill will be paid by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

In a post on X, Donelan claimed that members of the equality group shared “extremist” and “unacceptable” views, saying that she was “outraged” that Sang, as she understood it, described the government’s plan to crack down on Hamas support in the U.K. as “disturbing.”

The science secretary also condemned the “amplification” of a tweet by the advisory body’s chair, Kamna Patel, a development studies academic at UCL, which “condemns violence on both sides but makes reference to Israel’s ‘genocide and apartheid.’”

In a statement posted on X on March 5, Donelan said Sang clarified that her post related to the entirety of an article in The Guardian and not just the headline quoted in her tweet. On that basis, Donelan withdrew her concerns about the post.

Bindmans said Donelan based the false allegation on a report by the think tank Policy Exchange.

Donelan said she “fully accept[ed]” that Sang was “not an extremist, a supporter of Hamas or any other proscribed organization” and that she had deleted her original post.

Speaking after the case was settled, Sang said she was “very disturbed by the way in which Michelle Donelan and UKRI behaved.”

“Had they asked me at the start, I would have explained the true position. Instead, Michelle Donelan made a cheap political point at my expense and caused serious damage to my reputation,” Sang said.

Donelan’s intervention led to UKRI suspending the equality group, leading to a debate about freedom of speech, with several academics resigning from UKRI appointments as a result.

Following an independent investigation, UKRI’s board found no evidence of a breach of the advisory group’s terms of reference and no failure to uphold the Nolan principles on public life.

UKRI said it “regrets any difficulties experienced” by members of the group and it “warmly invite[s] the group to reconvene and to contribute their expertise as we resume the group’s important work.”

Patel said that there was “never any need for UKRI to investigate, as it should have been obvious from the start that we had not breached the Nolan principles or expressed extremist views.

“Worryingly, it appears UKRI were steered by who made the claim and not its substance,” Patel said. “It has been a distressing series of events and I am glad that it has concluded with no finding against us.”

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said Donelan “must now apologize for throwing the careers of highly respected academics into turmoil for the sake of another Tory antiwoke headline.”

“This investigation completely exonerates our members and confirms Michelle Donelan’s unprecedented, politicized intervention was an outrageous attack on academic freedom,” Grady said.

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