From The Economist print edition
How far can a Saudi sheikh use English law against an American author?
CAN the guarantee of free speech in America's first amendment trump English libel law? That is the question facing New York's Court of Appeals, in a case starting on November 15th. Rachel Ehrenfeld, a New York-based author, is seeking a ruling that an English libel judgment against her cannot be enforced in America and that her book, "Funding Evil", is constitutionally protected free speech.
November 15th: that means you still have time to contribute to Dr. Ehrenfeld's legal campaign. See her website for information, especially this page where you can download the legal documents and read about the battle.
Ms Ehrenfeld's book makes a series of allegations about the charitable activities of a wealthy Saudi businessman, Khalid Mahfouz, all of which he strenuously denies. Mr Mahfouz has won numerous victories in English courts against those who have sought to link him to Islamist terrorism. In August, for example, Britain's Cambridge University Press withdrew all copies of "Alms for Jihad", a book taking a similar line to Ms Ehrenfeld. That caused a furore: American librarians have refused the publishers' request to withdraw the book from their shelves; surviving copies change hands for hundreds of dollars on the internet.
Sheikh bin Mahfouz is a multibillionaire, one of the world's very richest men.
Scholars consistently link him to financing Islamic terrorists. He consistently uses his wealth to intimidate and sue them into submission, so the terror can continue.
Dr. Ehrenfeld is standing up to him, but it is a David-vs-Goliath struggle, and Dr. Ehrenfeld, who is defending our freedoms from infringement by this libel terrorist, needs our help. You can contribute to the counterjihad, and help make sure our David can buy the legal stones she needs to deal with this Financier of Holy Terror, Sheikh Khalid "Goliath" bin Mahfouz, who defies the God of Israel by trying to squelch the freedoms with which our Creator has endowed us.
"Funding Evil", by contrast, was never published in Britain; indeed it sold only a few dozen copies there, via internet booksellers. Ms Ehrenfeld and her publishers were not represented in the court hearing in London in 2005. "English law does not apply here since 1776, when we won our independence," she says. That did not impress the judge, Mr Justice Eady, who awarded £10,000 ($21,000) damages—the maximum possible in a summary hearing of an undefended action—to Mr Mahfouz and to two co-plaintiffs. He also declared her allegations against Mr Mahfouz false, and criticised her for using the English court proceedings to advertise her book, citing its intentionally eye-catching new subtitle: "The book that the Saudis don't want you to read."
And the fact that they are trying so hard to stomp it out and intimidate its author is the best reason I can think of to read it and to contribute to the legal counterjihad.
Mr Mahfouz's camp claim they are being misrepresented. Their lawyers have never tried to collect damages or costs from Ms Ehrenfeld, nor have they argued that the English court's judgment applies elsewhere, so there is no reason, they say, for a New York court to hear the case. Next week's arguments, they add, will be about jurisdiction, not free speech. The fact that Ms Ehrenfeld was served papers in New York notifying her of the London proceedings—so Mr Mahfouz's lawyers maintain—does not mean that their client conducts business in New York. That argument has already been accepted by a lower court.
They're not being misrepresented -- they're a bunch of terrorists. They terrorize through legal action and the threat of legal action. Far be it for Sheikh bin Mahfouz to strap on a belt of bombs and leave all his earthly treasures behind. Just because he doesn't actually blow himself up, that doesn't mean he is any less a terrorist than others who enable terrorism, like Sheikh bin Laden. These two fund & plan it, others blow themselves up, and innocent infidels -- and innocent Muslims -- die.
None of that cuts very much ice with free-speech defenders in America, who have long detested English libel law for placing the burden of proof on the author, and for the huge costs that defendants face: even brief proceedings quickly run into six figures. Unless American courts take a stand, so they argue, English libel law is likely to deter anyone who feels inclined to investigate important but controversial subjects.
This is a critical campaign in preserving ourselves alive and free; failure here would be another milemarker on the road to submission, slavery and death.
And let's be very clear about this: the road to Hell is very much shorter than we may think, and that's exactly where we're going if we let this libel terrorist drive.
"Our liberty depends
on the freedom of the press,
and that cannot be limited
without being lost."
Hat tip to my email tipster.