Libel Tourism: Then and Now

2004: Lawyer Trevor Asserson denounces Saudi attempts to use British libel law to go after an American writer:

“Some Saudis appear to be using the U.K. as a back door to silence their critics and repress free speech by threatening litigation, persuading publishers to back down rather then face years of expensive litigation — even if what they’re publishing might in fact be true,” said Trevor Asserson, who specializes in defamation in the London law office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

One of Mr. Asserson’s clients, Rachel Ehrenfeld, had a British deal to distribute her new book, “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It” (Bonus Books), canceled because of a legal threat by one of the Saudis she wrote about. Mr. Asserson declined to reveal who that person was.

As I blogged here, and as is well-known, this escalated into a Saudi billionaire using the British courts to pursue Ehrenfeld over the few copies that eventually made it into the UK.

2008: Lawyer Trevor Asserson helps an Israeli academic to use British libel law to go after an American-Palestinian writer:

In a discussion of Palestinian Art (Reaktion Books, 2007) by Gannit Ankori, Mr. [Jospeh] Massad alleged that Ms. [Gannit] Ankori had appropriated the work of Kamal Boullata, a Palestinian painter and art historian, without giving him due credit. That allegation has been made elsewhere as well.

Ms. Ankori, who chairs the art-history department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, considered the review defamatory. She consulted British lawyers, who contacted the association. The College Art Association reviewed Ms. Ankori’s assertions, consulted its own lawyers, and decided to settle.

…Ankori’s lawyer, Trevor Asserson, is quoted as saying that America’s commitment to the First Amendment is “a very parochial way of looking at things” and that America “is out of step with many, many other countries.”

I blogged on this case here.