Middle East Eye has said its journalism has been “fully vindicated” after a Palestinian politician dropped a libel case against it.
The news website’s editor-in-chief David Hearst claimed Mohammed Dahlan had brought the defamation action to “intimidate and silence” its work.
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Dahlan is a former leader of Palestinian nationalist party Fatah who was exiled from Gaza by Hamas. He now lives in the United Arab Emirates.
He brought a claim against Middle East Eye in London’s High Court over an article which was published in July 2016 following the failed coup against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The article, headlined “Exclusive: UAE ‘funnelled money to Turkish coup plotters’”, reported allegations obtained by Hearst from sources within Turkish intelligence that the UAE government had been behind the failed coup and that Dahlan had acted as a go-between.
Hearst also reported that the UAE government had quickly launched an operation to distance itself from Dahlan, and that he has been linked to attempts to “stoke” the Libyan civil war.
The article has remained online since publication despite Dahlan submitting a claim against Middle East Eye and Hearst in June 2017 for £250,000 in damages, plus an injunction and legal costs.
The journalists, through lawyers Carter-Ruck, submitted a defence that the article was in the public interest and based on “trusted and credible” sources.
According to Carter-Ruck, the case had been listed for a nine-day trial to begin on 18 November this year when Dahlan abandoned the claim.
In doing so, Dahlan has accepted full liability for both sides’ legal costs, which Carter-Ruck estimates totals more than £500,000.
Hearst said: “Our journalism has been fully vindicated. The article we published in 2016 is still on our site, unamended, in its original form.
“This action was designed to intimidate and silence us. When Dahlan saw that we were fully prepared to defend what we wrote in the High Court on the grounds that it was of the highest public interest, he blinked, and will now have to pay our legal costs, which are substantial.
“It is telling that when offered the opportunity, he was not prepared to defend his reputation before a British High Court.”
In a statement published in Arabic on Dahlan’s Twitter account this week, the politician maintained that Middle East Eye’s story was “fully fabricated” but that he has “achieved his goals in the English courts”.
He added that he now plans to sue Facebook, where the article was “widely published”.
“The fabricated article claimed that Mohammed Dahlan secretly co-financed the failed military coup in Turkey in July 2016, and also included false allegations about his activities in Libya, and the article claimed a lie… that Dahlan was exiled from the UAE,” the statement said.
“Middle East Eye has not attempted to verify any of these fabricated allegations by contacting [Dahlan].
“Middle East Eye offered to publish an explanation on the article after Dahlan filed a complaint with the court, but Dahlan decided to reject the offer, which did not live up to the situation that resulted from the wide dissemination of the article via social media, including Facebook.
“MP Mohammed Dahlan will now focus his efforts to pursue legal proceedings vigorously against Facebook before the Dublin High Court… for the inaccurate publication of MP Dahlan’s statements.
“So after Dahlan achieved his goals in the English courts, he decided to stop the ongoing legal proceedings in London.”