Sunday, March 21, 2010

Libel Tourism: 95,000 'Descendants' of Mohammed to Sue Over Cartoons

Before you laugh, consider this suit will be taking place in Britain, and there's already precedent for insanity. I'm surprised they've only got 95,000 plaintiffs. Why not just come up with 10 million? A billion?
UP TO 95,000 descendants of the prophet Muhammad are planning to bring a libel action in Britain over “blasphemous” cartoons of the founder of Islam, even though they were published in the Danish press.

The defamation case is being prepared by Faisal Yamani, a Saudi lawyer acting for the descendants, who live in the Middle East, north Africa and as far afield as Australia.

Mark Stephens, a British lawyer who has seen a “pre-action” letter sent by Yamani to 10 Danish newspapers, said it “specifically says” he will launch proceedings in London.

Yamani is expected to justify the action by claiming that the cartoons, including one of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, were accessible in Britain on the internet.

Critics say the case is a political stunt and yet another example of how England has become the leading destination for “libel tourism”. The English defamation laws make it easier to bring and win libel cases here than in jurisdictions such as America that place greater emphasis on freedom of speech.

Stephens said the descendants could argue that the cartoons — which first appeared in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005, sparking violent protests around the world — were a direct slur on them.

“Direct descendants of the prophet have a particular place within Muslim society . . . By effectively criticising and making fun of the prophet you are, by implication, holding them up to scandal, contempt and public ridicule,” he said. “So it may be that they will suffer some kind of damage among their own community. The question is, is that defamatory in English law?”

Stephens said a diplomatic backlash could be sparked if a judge refused to hear the case being brought by the Oxford-educated Yamani.

“A lot of judges would throw it out, but it is obviously a very highly charged issue and if they do throw it out it becomes political.”

In a previous case of libel tourism, a Saudi businessman sued an American author whose book on the funding of terrorism was published in the United States but sold 23 copies in Britain via the internet. The businessman was awarded more than £100,000 in damages and costs.

In another example, the Ukrainian Rinat Akhmetov successfully used the courts in London to sue a Ukrainian language website over an article mainly read in Ukraine.
It'll be interesting to see how these 95,000 "descendants" of Mohammed prove they're related.

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