‘the claims made in the Article ….are totally unfounded and incorrect’. Al-Amoudi
- ‘Here is my formal statement: Screw yourself. Same goes for all DLA Piper “lawyers.” – Elias Kifle
- it is difficult to imagine more serious allegations. – Judge Richard Parkes QC
A leading Ethiopian opposition website has been fined £175,000(about 4.95 million Birr) for libel on yesterday.
The claimant is Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, who is ranked as the 66th top Billionaire, by Forbes Magazine this year, with estimated net worth 12.3 Bln US Dollars.
Al Amoudi, born in Ethiopia, from a Saudi father and Ethiopian mother, moved to the Arabia in the 1960s where he made his fortune. Al-Amoudi started investing in Ethiopia, after 1991, following the downfall of the Marxist-military regime. By some accounts, Al-Amoudi’s investment accounted about 50% of the total Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) to the country between 1992-2002.
This, coupled with his official support for the ruling party in the run-up to the 2005 election, made Al-Amoudi a key target of the opposition media, at home and abroad.
Though Al-Amoudi endured a persistent smear campaign for several years, he decided to sue when a US-based website, Ethiopianreview.com published an article titled ‘Ethiopian Billionaire’s daughter faces stoning in Saudi’ in January 2010 – which Al-Amoudi described as ‘horrific’.
The website Ethiopian-review is one of the extreme opposition sites widely read among the Ethiopian Diaspora.
The site’s editor in Chief is Elias Kifle has been until recently a US liaison of the insurgent group ‘Ethiopian People Patriots Front’ (EPPF) which is based in and financed by Eritrea. The website’s associate editors include a California University Professor Alemayehu GebreMariam – a writer on Huffington post and a board chair-man of Ethiopian Satellite TV, which is supported by the terrorist group ‘Ginbot 7’, according to the 2010 US State Department report. However, Al-Amoudi named only Elias Kifle in his lawsuit.
Al-Amoudi described the contents of the defamatory article as follows, in his appearance in the court on June 6:
I understood the Article to be saying that I am a person who would (and did) heat his daughter cruelly by forcing her to marry: at a young age, an old and unsuitable man, and by treating her as a possession and making a ‘gift’ of her in marriage.
The Article also conveyed that I am a person whose daughter believes that I would harm or even kill her (or cause her lo be harmed or punished by others) and that as a result of that belief my daughter is scared of me and fled Saudi Arabia to avoid me.
I also understood the Article to be saying that I am a person who has been involved in financing terrorists and terrorist activities and that my daughter believes that I have been involved in such activities
the Article also seems to me to say that I am a person whose daughter would believe me to have been involved in the atrocious acts against US military contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004 and, as a corollary” would believe that I would physically harm or kill people
However, Al-Amoudi said ‘the claims made in the Article in relation to the marriage of my daughter Sarah are totally unfounded and incorrect’. He noted further Sarah Al Amoudi is unmarried, currently in England and studying for a first degree in Business Administration, which is she is expected to complete this year.
Apparently, Elias Kifle found a news item on the British media about woman called Sarah Al-Amoudi. However, the middle name ‘Mohammed’ including most of the story is apparently his invention. It is widely known most of the items on that website are produced this way, though no one else bothered to sue the editor so far.
Al-Amoudi expressed the cause of his dismay saying
my daughter is not the woman identified in the Article. This is apparent to me and my immediate family, but due to my private nature and the fact that I choose not to publicize my family life, the details about my daughter and her circumstances will not be known by my business contacts, associates or the public generally and they may therefore believe the Article to be true…….
Although I have a significant profile as a business man, I have always kept my personal and family life very private. I was therefore particularity angry that such offensive personal attacks were made in the Article and published on the internet. Given that information about my private life is not generally known. I believe that people are more likely to believe the claims made in the Article.
Al-Amoudi also emphasized that he is ‘implacably opposed to terrorism in all its forms’ and he has ‘never been in any way involved in killing US military contractors in Fallujah or elsewhere’.
In reaction to the article, Al-Amoudi’s lawyer contacted Elias Kifle by email, which the latter ridiculed publicly. The e-mail reads:
February 5, 2010
Mr. Elias Kifle
Publisher, Ethiopian Review
Re: January 27, 2010 On-Line Article Entitles “Ethiopian billionaire’s daughter faces stoning in Saudi”
Dear Mr. Kifle:
This firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi and his family.
We are writing to you regarding the content of your article entitled “Ethiopian billionaire’s daughter faces in Saudi,” appearing on-line in the January 27, 2010 edition of the Ethiopian Review. Your article states that the “identity of the alleged Saudi Princess given secret asylum in the United Kingdom early last year has been revealed” as Sarah Mohammed Al Amoudi, daughter of Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi. The alleged Saudi Princess referenced in your article is not the daughter of Sheikh Al Amoudi, The information in your article making the link between the alleged Saudi Princess and the Al Amoudi family is false, highly inflammatory, and is a defamatory statement.
We insist that you immediately cease and desist from making this false and defamatory statement. We also demand that you issue an immediate retraction of the article by issuing a formal statement disclaiming the link between the alleged Saudi Princess and the Al Amoudi family, by removing the reference to Sheikh Al Amoudi and his family from this on-line article, and by issuing an apology to Sheikh Al Amoudi and his family.
If you are represented by counsel, have your counsel contact us immediately to discuss this very serious matter. If you are not represented, you may contact us directly to confirm arrangements for the retraction and apology.
Very truly yours,
Mary E. Gately
DLA Piper LLP
500 Eights Street, NW
Washington DC 20044
T. 202 799 4507
F. 202 799 5507
Elias Kifle responded as follows:
Here is my formal statement:
Screw yourself. Same goes for all DLA Piper “lawyers.” Stop bluffing and face me in court.
Strikingly, Elias Kifle posted both e-mails on the website – ethiopianreview.com
Al-Amoudi noted the court that the article had been publicly accessible on the website until June 2, 2011. Though the headline is still visible on the website to date, a password is required to read the contents.
He also claimed that Elias Kifle continued to make similar allegations in subsequent articles, citing in particular, a a July 15, 2010 article, titled ‘Mohammed Al Almoudi’s daughter back in the news’. Al-Amoudi also noted Elias Kifle made statements, in an interview on ethiotube.net, insinuating that he has ‘taken money away from the people of Ethiopia’ and ‘committed crimes against the people of Ethiopia’. However, the Billionaire is rather known for his philanthropic activities in the Ethiopia public.
London’s High Court Judge Richard Parkes QC noted the notoriety of the case saying it is difficult to imagine more serious allegations.
Assessing damages, the judge said: ‘The claimant is not, I judge, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve…..But his distress as he described the effect of the article on himself and on his family was evident to me, and the more so because, as it seemed to me, he was doing his best to preserve his composure.’
Thus, the judge awarded Al-Amoudi 175,000 Pounds(or about 4.92 million Birr).
Elias Kifle is allegedly counting on the Ethiopian Diaspora to cover the amount. A fundraising might soon launched, though difficult to predict how the disarrayed opposition camp will respond.
The article which put Elias Kifle into this nightmare had been re-posted on several opposition websites at the time. As it is common, among the sites, to re-publish each other’s posts, to the point that it is usually difficult to identify the earliest post. This particular article is still visible in a number of opposition web-sites and it is not clear why Al-Amoudi excluded them from his law-suit, as all involved in the dissemination of a defamatory article, even the host web-site, are held liable in British law.