Islamists are demanding the execution of Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari over tweets, since retracted, that they say are blasphemous toward their religion. Malaysia has detained Kashgari and may extradite him to face the charges; according to reports, the international police organization had put out an order for his arrest at the behest of the Saudi government [Guardian, Nina Shea/NRO, Daily Beast, Reason, Facebook support page, blog, #FreeHamza]
That’s genie “jinn” not potable “gin,” though the latter would work as a headline for a different story. The spirit in question was said to have seized a Saudi judge arrested on corruption charges. [Emirates 24/7]
Not for the first time, the lawyers are getting involved: “Faizal A.Z. Yamani of the Jeddah-based legal firm A.Z. Yamani sent a letter to about a dozen newspaper editors, insisting that they print apologies in Danish, English, Arabic and French, and to undertake never to print the cartoon again. He also ordered all the cartoons to be removed from the internet in perpetuity.” [MWW]
CNN: “The lawsuit filed in Shariah court accuses the genie of leaving them threatening voicemails, stealing their cell phones and hurling rocks at them when they leave their house at night, said Al-Watan newspaper.” If they think the genie is harassing them now, wait till it gets a lawyer….
P.S. Above the Law: “The article doesn’t mention damages sought, but we hope it’s three wishes.” “Will the genie appear when summoned?” (@susanwake). “Good luck getting service. Is Robin Williams or Barbara Eden the registered agent?” (@JerseyTodd). And more details on the case from Lowering the Bar.
So argued former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger III in the WSJ last week, with special reference to the overreaching, extraterritorial Alien Tort Statute. But it’s not as if the efforts to turn the U.S. into the courtroom for the world are slackening at all:
- As Curtis Bradley and Jack Goldsmith note in the Washington Post, a federal court recently allowed to proceed a lawsuit seeking to blame the evils of South African apartheid on Western multinationals, even despite strong opposition to the suit from both the U.S. government’s executive branch and today’s duly elected multiracial South African government. Unfortunately, the State Department’s up-to-now-staunch opposition to this and similar lawsuits is imperiled by the installment of Harold Koh as legal adviser at Foggy Bottom: “Koh is an intellectual architect and champion of the post-1980 human rights litigation explosion. He joined a brief in the South Africa litigation arguing for broad aiding-and-abetting liability.”
- If asked what should happen to frozen Cuban-government assets under U.S. control, reasonable possibility #1 might be “hold them against the eventual day when a non-tyrannical regime emerges there, it will need help.” Reasonable possibility #2 might be “divide the assets among Castro’s many victims in some deliberate and step-by-step way, knowing that their injuries are so numerous and severe that even very deserving victims will get only small payments”. The answer you’d think makes no sense at all is “encourage first-come-first-served tort lawsuits, so that the first couple of cases to maneuver their way through the legal process get handsome compensation, while no money is left for either #1 or #2″. So naturally, the latter is what our legal system is doing, previously in $188 million and $253 million verdicts involving single incidents or families, and now in a new case in which the family of Gustavo Villoldo has been awarded $1.179 billion. One of the plaintiff’s lawyers in the case actually boasts that the new award may obstruct a warming of relations between the U.S. and a post-Castro successor regime: “with the opening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba to come, there are debts to society to be paid before that happens” (more on Che Guevara, via).
- On the brighter side, the Obama administration has joined its Bush predecessors in correctly drawing a line against litigation by some September 11 victims and insurance companies: under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, the courts are no place to pursue theories trying to link the rulers of Saudi Arabia to the terrorist attacks.
(cross-posted from Point of Law)
Enough to make our way of law look civilized: Raouf Amin el-Arabi, a longtime doctor to the royal family charged with prescribing narcotics to a Saudi princess, drew a sentence of 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes. (AP/Texarkana, Tex. Gazette, Nov. 12 via KevinMD).
Not what you think, this is in Saudi Arabia:
“Tribes like to say, ‘We got this amount of money for a member of our tribe,’ ” he said. “People start to think the more money you can get for a member of your family, the more valuable your tribe is.”
And the defendant who doesn’t settle the case is executed. (Faiza Saleh Ambah, “Saudis Face Soaring Blood-Money Sums: Tribes, Families Are Demanding Millions”, Washington Post, Jul. 27).
Eight-minute documentary short from Moving Picture Institute (“Indoctrinate U.”, etc.) examines a Saudi billionaire’s London defamation suit against American author Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book Funding Evil (never published in the U.K.) had charged him with funding terrorism. (Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”, Nov. 19). Earlier: Oct. 26, 2003, Jun. 11, 2007. Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz “has won so many defamation claims that he publishes an anthology of apologies on his website. … The sheikh denied being a libel tourist in England where he and his sons had for many years had substantial connections, including residences and a London-based oil company.” (Dominic Kennedy, “US writer fights gagging order on al-Qaeda claims”, Times Online (U.K.), Nov. 1).
Major tobacco companies have gotten one of those letters from the Federal Ministry of Finance in Lagos, Nigeria, proposing a gigantic and unlikely transfer of funds. Problem is, this time it’s authentic. Hans Bader has details (Nov. 7). Similar, earlier suits by foreign governments: Nov. 16, 2000 (Saudi Arabia); Feb. 1-3, 2002 (others).
Whether or not you reside in the U.K., the range of reading material available to you regarding the tangled banking relationships of the Middle East is being shaped and constrained by the London libel courts. (Gary Shapiro, “Libel Suit Leads to Destruction of Books”, New York Sun, Aug. 2; Mark Steyn, “The vanishing jihad exposés”, syndicated/Orange County Register, Aug. 5; earlier here and here).
That prospective lawsuit by the very needy and deserving plaintiff, the government of Saudi Arabia, against international tobacco companies, discussed in this space Nov. 16, 2000 and Dec. 10, 2001, is apparently on again. (“Saudis threaten to sue tobacco companies”, Reuters/GulfNews, Nov. 30). Hans Bader at CEI’s Open Market (Dec. 1) deplores the action, but seems to imagine that 1) it might make more sense for American victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudis and that 2) this isn’t happening already (see Jul. 11, 2003, Sept. 26 and Nov. 6, 2004, and Oct. 12, 2005).
Civil libertarians take a stand in Britain: by single-vote margins, the House of Commons has surprisingly voted to water down significantly the bill introduced by the Blair government to attach legal penalties to various types of speech critical of religion. In particular, the bill “was stripped of measures to outlaw ‘abusive and insulting’ language and behaviour as well as the crime of ‘recklessness’ in actions that incite religious hatred.” Earlier, the House of Lords had heeded protests from free-speech advocates including comedian Rowan Atkinson by lending its support to amendments to the bill. “In a humiliating blow to Mr Blair, who has a 65-seat Commons majority, 21 Labour rebels voted with Opposition MPs while at least 40 more were absent or abstained.” (David Charter, “Religious hate Bill lost after Blair fails to vote”, The Times, Feb. 1; Greg Hurst and David Charter, “Racial hatred Bill threatens our civil liberties, say rebels”, Feb. 1; Greg Hurst and Ruth Gledhill , “How comic’s supporters kept their heads down and used their cunning”, Feb. 2). Earlier coverage: Jul. 16, 2004; Jun. 11, Jun. 27, Aug. 17, Oct. 19, and Oct. 29, 2005.
The Blair government’s primary motivation for the bill is considered to be to cater to the sensitivities of British Muslims, and many commentators (such as Charles Moore) make the obvious connection with the situation in Denmark (see Feb. 1). Meanwhile, violent threats continue against Danes, cartoonists, and liberal-minded Europeans generally. And some 500 lawyers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are supporting a project “to take legal action against” those who insult or demean the founder of their religion with one goal being “to enact laws that would incriminate abuse of religions and prophets in all countries,” as a spokesman puts it. (P.K. Abdul Ghafour & Abdul Maqsood Mirza, “Lawyers Vow Legal Action in Cartoons Row”, Arab News, Feb. 4). Michelle Malkin has much, much more (plus this).
“To the extent that its 9/11 attacks were designed to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and shake the Saudi regime, Al-Qaeda succeeded beyond it wildest dreams. … [The Saudi establishment] finds itself under siege not only by Western journalists and politicians, but also by the American plaintiffs’ bar, in the form of a civil lawsuit filed by 17 law firms from seven states in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, demanding $116 trillion in damages on behalf of over 3,000 9/11 victims and their families.” Christopher H. Johnson of Artur & Hadden, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Middle East Committee, offers a critique of the litigation (“Terrorism as Mass Tort: Responsibility for 9/11″, Saudi-American Forum, Essay Series #3). See Sept. 26 and links from there.