Washington, DC -- United States District Judge Emmet Sullivan last week struck down a libel suit against Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Yasser Abbas, the son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sued Schanzer and Foreign Policy magazine last year for an article Schanzer wrote detailing Yasser Abbas' wealth. (The piece can be viewed here.) Yasser Abbas demanded that Schanzer and Foreign Policy issue a retraction. When they refused, he sued both for $20 million.
On Friday, after nine months of deliberation, Judge Sullivan weighed in:
"As public scrutiny over his business and political activity has increased, Mr. Abbas has used the threat of defamation litigation to counter bad press … Between 2008 and 2010, Mr. Abbas and his family have filed defamation lawsuits or threatened to sue for libel on three separate occasions against an Israeli television channel, Reuters, and Al-Jazeera."
Judge Sullivan noted that Schanzer's questions invite readers to form their "own judgments regarding the relationship between Mr. Abbas's family ties and his admittedly great wealth… That Mr. Abbas would prefer that readers do not answer the questions in the affirmative is not sufficient to support his defamation claim."
The full text of the opinion can be viewed here.
"This is a victory for free speech in America," said FDD president Cliff May.
Schanzer's attorney, Nathan Siegel of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, added that he and his client were "pleased that Judge Sullivan affirmed the First Amendment right of writers and journalists to raise questions and express opinions about public figures."
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