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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chilling Effect - How a Manhattan Federal Court Judge Weakened the War on Terror

A Manhattan federal court judge has issued a ruling that could have a chilling effect on the exposure of terror funding in the United States.

Rachel Ehrenfeld has written extensively on how terror is financed. In 2003, Dr. Ehrenfeld published a book entitled Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. Among other things, the book revealed connections between Saudi billionaire Sheik Khalid Salim a bin Mahfouz and his sons, and al Qaeda funding.

Mahfouz, who lives in Saudi Arabia, sued Dr. Ehrenfeld in England, which has notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws, because of which the book was not offered for sale in England. Ehrenfeld lives in New York and therefore did not appear in the English court, denying that the court had jurisdiction over her. The pretext for the English court to gain jurisdiction was the purchase of 26 copies of Ehrenfeld's book by people domiciled in England via Amazon.com.

Had the case been filed in the United States, he would have had to prove that the book misstated the facts with malicious intent, a standard he likely could not have met. Moreover, he would have been subject to a discovery process that would reveal things that the Saudi billionaire would not want the world to know, especially since he'd already been under the microscope for bank fraud and money laundering in a failed Muslim bank he financed, and for which he was forced to make restitution. Mahfouz is already a defendant in a number of 9/11 lawsuits.

An English court rendered a default judgment against Ehrenfeld, and ordered her to pay the Saudi more than $200,000 in damages plus court costs, and barred her book in the U.K. The judgment rendered by the British court can only be enforced in the United States by legal action. Ehrenfeld filed an action in the United States Federal Court for the Southern district court in Manhattan to block the collection process. More than money is at stake. As her attorney stated to the Court: "The freedom to ferret out and publish facts without fear of expensive lawsuits and huge judgments in foreign countries whose defamation laws negate a commitment to freedom of expression and public discourse are pregnant and antithetical and contrary to our fundamental policy."

According to FrontPage Magazine.com, the American federal court judge ruled this week that he has no jurisdiction over the case. Dr. Ehrenfeld is appealing. She believes that her case will help determine whether or not American writers will be able to continue to expose America's enemies.


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