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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Libel Tourist is dead

Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi citizen who brought several defamation lawsuits in Great Britain against United States writers and publishers who accused him of supporting and funding terrorism, has died at 60. (H/T: Greg Wallach of FIU College of Law).

Most recently (and famously), bin Mahfouz won a $200,000 default judgment against American journalist Rachel Ehrenfeld for her book Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed — and How to Stop It. Ehrenfeld fought back by trying to get a federal injunction against U.S. enforcement of that judgment, which failed for jurisdictional reasons. Ehrenfeld then became a vocal advocate for Libel Tourism (or Libel Terrorism) laws at the state and federal levels. These bills would at a minimum make unenforceable in the United States any foreign defamation judgment against speech that is protected by the First Amendment. They would, at a maximum, establish special jurisdictional rules for domestic actions enjoining enforcement, and providing for "clawback" of the amount of any foreign judgment. I have written previously about the many problems with the more-expansive bills and was part of a panel on the subject at SEALS earlier this month.

I wonder what this news will do to either push the legislation or further dampen it as an issue.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 27, 2009 at 11:36 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


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Your reporting is a bit incomplete. Bin Mahfouz also took writers and publishers from the UK and France to court, all for publishing what he considered to be libel based on the Golden Chain document.

That document has been tossed out of court by judges in the US, UK, and France, but continued to appear in accounts seeking to link Bin Mahfouz with terror financing.

His cases were heard not only in the UK, but in the US and France as well, all coming to the same conclusion.

This comment is not to support British libel law. It is rather to suggest that perhaps, just maybe, Bin Mahfouz was libeled and took legal action where he could.

Posted by: John Burgess | Aug 31, 2009 11:36:27 AM

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