Sunday, December 02, 2007

Libel Tourism Offered by British Legal System

Because of what some would call a loophole in the British legal system, although I prefer to call it a flaw, individuals from any country in the world are allowed to sue anyone else for libel in a British court. This is true even in cases that do not involve British citizens or in which the allegedly libelous statements were made in books, newspapers or magazines never published or sold in the U.K. An Israeli-American citizen has found out the hard way that one Saudi billionaire, in particular, has so much money and time that he is single-handedly having a huge negative impact on freedom of the press.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld's Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed - and How to Stop It traces the methods used by some wealthy Arabs to fund terrorist organizations around the world. In that book, she mentions billionaire Saudi banker Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, among many others, who have ties to organizations known to have offered financial support to al-Qaeda and others who want to murder on behalf of radical Islam. Unfortunately for Ehrenfield, the banker decided to add her to the list of authors he has sued for an apology and monetary damages. He has now filed 36 such cases in British courts.

Up to now, it seems that everyone sued by Sheikh Khalid simply gives up because they do not have the money to match the fortune that he is willing to pay for lawyers. Even Cambridge University Press took that approach. Dr. Ehrenfield is fighting back as much as she can, but she is definitely the David to his Goliath. Here is hoping that she matches David's success.

If what I've tried to explain doesn't make you nervous about losing our own freedom of the press in the court systems of other countries, please watch this eight-minute film to get a much clearer explanation.

You may also be interested in the MPI website dedicated to getting the word out about what is happening to Dr. Ehrenfield. She has filed a countersuit in U.S. Federal court resulting in the determination that every American writer and publisher can use U.S. courts to appeal the libel judgments of British courts. "Libel tourism" is a direct threat to us as readers who expect to find truth in the written word. What happens next in U.S. court will help determine whether we can continue to expect the whole truth or if those with enough money can make sure that the truth about them remains hidden forever.


  1. I guess the concept of jurisdiction (and lack thereof) hasn't crossed the ocean?

  2. The whole question of "lack of jurisdiction" just doesn't make sense to me, factotum. I just don't see the logic in being able to sue anyplace in the world for something that has nothing to do with the location of the court and its judges.

    I saw this first hand while living in London during the time that Pinochet was forced to live there while on trial for crimes that happened in his own country. That was just weird.

  3. That's what I meant. The alleged wrongdoing did not take place in England and the plaintiff and the defendant have nothing to do with England. Isn't that lack of jurisdiction? (It's been a while since my business law class.)

    I agree with you on the Pinochet issue for the same reason: it had nothing to do with England.

  4. Sorry to have confused the issue, factotum...I was agreeing with you. :-)