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September 30, 2013

Court dismisses Foreign Policy libel suit

A $10 million #libel suit against Foreign Policy magazine has been dismissed by a federal judge.

In a 37-page decision, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tossed the suit filed by Yasser Abbas against Foreign Policy Group and Jonathan Schanzer, the author of an article that appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine in June 2012.

Sullivan dismissed the suit using D.C.'s anti-SLAPP measure, which amounts to an early victory for Foreign Policy.

Abbas is the son of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and, as Sullivan notes, "he owns and operates many businesses throughout the Middle East."

"Over the last few years," Sullivan noted, "many questions have been raised about whether his business success and political ties are linked, though he has systematically denied any such allegations."

As public scrutiny over his business and political activity has increased, Sullivan added, "Mr. Abbas has used the threat of defamation litigation to counter bad press."

The Foreign Policy article in question was entitled “The Brothers Abbas: Are the sons of the Palestinian President growing rich off their father’s system?”

The full decision merits close reading, but Sullivan sums up:

"The defendants have made a prima facie showing that Mr. Abbas’s defamation claim arises from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of the public interest, and that Mr. Abbas has failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of his defamation claim because the contested statements are either not capable of defamatory meaning or are protected statements of opinion."


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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