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Wednesday, November 15, 2006 

Why "libel tourism" is a serious matter

Britain may be slowly sinking towards dhimmitude, but that doesn't mean we should allow certain of their unholy practices to determine the future of countries abroad.

Case in point: the heroic reporter Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, who was discriminated against by a British court that ruled in favor of the shady Saudi millionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz to try and suppress her ability to investigate his ties to terror. She's now suing in US court to prevent her work from being suppressed by what's come to be known as "libel tourism" in the UK. The problem lies within Britain's libel laws, which are much worse than those in France. Here's an item from The Boston Globe (via Protein Wisdom and Michelle Malkin), that gives some important info on just what Britain welcomes:
AN IMPORTANT question will be argued tomorrow before the federal Court of Appeals in Manhattan: should American journalists who write about controversial issues be subjected to legal intimidation from abroad? More precisely, will American courts halt the growing practice of "libel tourism" whereby wealthy foreigners sue American writers and publishers in England, despite little chance of enforcing the judgment in this country?

Rachel Ehrenfeld, an adviser to the Defense Department and director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, pioneered investigation into the financial roots of terrorism, first in her 1990 book "Narcoterrorism" and, most recently, in "Funding Evil -- How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It." She argued, controversially, that dollars from drug traffickers, corrupt state leaders, and wealthy Arab financiers, especially Saudis, fund terrorism.

One target of Ehrenfeld's work is Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, former owner of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia and former chief operating officer of the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International. In 1992, he paid $225 million after his indictment in New York for his role in the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

In "Funding Evil," Ehrenfeld reported that bin Mahfouz deposited "tens of millions of dollars in London and New York directly into terrorist accounts" and transferred some $74 million to the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Muwafaq Foundation run by Yasin al-Qadi, a US-designated terrorist.

[...]

Bin Mahfouz and fellow libel tourists have made the English libel bar rich, leading the London Times to declare the United Kingdom the "libel capital of the Western world." English lawyers now refer to the "Arab effect" to describe the surge of English libel actions by wealthy, non resident Arabs accused of funding terrorism. This trend has produced a succession of rulings, settlements, and damage awards against English and American media defendants costing millions of pounds.

Bin Mahfouz has sued or threatened suit in England 33 times against those who linked him to terrorism. He runs a website boasting of his victories. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all have settled with him. The English court enjoined publication of "Funding Evil" in Britain and awarded bin Mahfouz 60,000 pounds ($109,470), even though the merits of his allegations were never tried.

Rather than confront bin Mahfouz on England's libel-friendly turf, Ehrenfeld sued him in a New York federal court seeking a declaration that his English judgment is unenforceable in the United States as repugnant to the First Amendment.

The English judgment has impaired her ability to find publishers for her other work. Remarkably, the district court dismissed her case, ruling in effect that Ehrenfeld must await legal action in the United States by bin Mahfouz to enforce the English judgment before raising her First Amendment defense. However, his lawyers have declared he does not intend to enforce his judgment in this country.

Writers are now subject to intimidation by libel tourists. Little wonder that the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Association of American Publishers, and 14 other media groups have filed a "friend of the court" brief to support Ehrenfeld's quest to raise her First Amendment defense now. Until she is able to do so, she will have problems finding American publishers willing to risk publishing her research and writing.
I think I can tell what the problem is here. Britain may be threatening to prosecute or fine American publishers working in the UK who publish the works of people whom they don't agree with. But whatever exactly the problem is, here's what I have to say: even if a UK ruling cannot be enforced within the US, that doesn't mean that Americans should tolerate Britain's attempts to extend both theirs and Saudi Arabia's shari'a overseas. There's a reason why the pilgrims left Britain and journeyed to the north American shores.

Back in May, FPM reported that the Southern District Court in Manhattan dismissed the case:
...Judge Casey ignored Ehrenfeld’s plea for her First Amendment rights, and decided that he had no jurisdiction over the case. Ehrenfeld is filing an appeal and faces a daunting challenge of raising enough money to support a case that she believes will help determine whether or not American writers will be able to continue to expose America’s enemies.
This is more of a problem that you'd think, as The New York Sun suggests:
Whether American courts can block those judgments, or at least certain of their provisions, is a question none of the judges yesterday appeared especially eager to tackle. And the court expressed little interest in the First Amendment concerns that legal observers say are present in the case.

One judge on the panel, Jose Cabranes, seemed worried that a ruling in the researcher’s favor could open up American courts to suits challenging the judgments of other courts across the globe.
Are these leftist judges helming the case? I don't know. What I do know is that Ehrenfeld's First Amendment rights should not be ignored, that's for sure.

Also important here is the following exclusive from Dhimmi Watch written by Robert Locke:
The laws of Saudi Arabia, based upon the sharia law mandated by the Koran, do not recognize the rights and freedoms guaranteed Americans by the Constitution. The Saudi government makes no secret of its ambition to export Islamic tyranny worldwide, as the Koran commands. What most Americans don’t realize, is that American courts are helping it in a number of ways. For example, they are collaborating with Saudi attempts to squash the free-speech rights of Americans with abusive libel lawsuits.

[...]

British law requires the loser in a court case to pay the winner’s court costs. This is the real attraction for shady millionaires: the chance to bankrupt their opponents into silence. Because of this, Britain has become a Mecca for rich but shady characters seeking to purchase the appearance of legal vindication. There’s even a name for it: libel tourism.

...the larger issue, of course, is how it became the business of a British court to render judgments against American authors. The legal pretext here is laughably flimsy: despite the fact that the book was never published, or even offered for sale, in the UK, 26 Britons bought copies over the Internet from American booksellers like Amazon.com (which, to its credit, joined an amicus brief supporting Dr. Ehrenfeld in this.) And a few downloaded the first chapter, which was posted on the Internet.

By this standard, every author in the United States is now subject to Britain’s Victorian libel laws, and the Declaration of Independence has failed.
Clearly, Americans' fight to free themselves from Britain's prejudice is far from over. And I want to say that: whether or not Britain can actually enforce their screwed up laws over in the US does not mean that America shouldn't decry those would-be laws of theirs. I know what you're thinking. I'm suggesting that some kind of diplomatic effort should be made to protest against the imposing of laws by a foreign country on Americans that are contrary to the basic rights of Americans under their Constitution. Yes, that's what I'm arguing, and while I do realize that it's something that could take eons to really manifest, maybe it should be done. Britain, after all, is a country where the situation is becoming considerably worse all the time, as they sink ever deeper into the pit of dhimmitude, and to be quite honest, I can't see why any nation that believes in democracy should have to lead relations with a country that's going as backwards as the UK is. One of the commentators on Protein's blog says:
I am no lawyer, but the problem with this not being an issue that our courts can rule on is that the writer in question is being punished based upon a judgment in Britain. If citizens of this country can have their livelihood taken away by a decision in a court in another country, we need to make it our problem, as a country. We rightly believe in free speech, and just because other countries don’t have the same standards is no excuse for us to allow our citizens to be screwed by their backwards laws.

Of course, maybe we’re looking at this from the wrong end of the stick. Maybe we should be contacting the companies that are uncomfortable publishing her works, and remind them that she has done nothing wrong, and that we have protection in this country from such nonsense.
The commentor is correct, and not just on US matters, but on the rights of innocent people in Europe as well. Nobody with common sense should have to have their free speech rights trod on by abysmal laws like Britain's. It should be protested.

Ehrenfeld is fortunate to have received support from 9-11 Families for a Secure America. And if she still needs financial support, you can go here to see how to donate.

Open trackbacks: 123beta, Adam's Blog, Basil's Blog, bRight & Early, The Bullwinkle Blog, Cao's Blog, The Clash of Civilizations, The Mudville Gazette, NIF, Point Five, The Right Nation, Stop the ACLU, Woman Honor Thyself. Others on the subject include JunkYardBlog, Public Secrets, Rule of Reason, The Dougout, Tributaries, Heretical Librarian, Thoughts of a Conservative Christian.

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