A Moroccan prince is suing an Arabic language news website in the UK over an allegation he plotted to “sabotage the image” of his cousin, King Mohammed VI.
His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Addallah Al Alaoui of Morocco – known as Moulay Hicham (pictured, Reuters) – is claiming damages from Elaph over an October 2014 story.
He said the article portrayed him as “dishonest, devious and seriously dishonourable” and left him in “fear of physical attack”, citing the fact that “persons strongly supportive of or associated with the current ruling apparatus in Morocco” are likely to have read it.
On its website Elaph lists its address and contact details in Richmond, Surrey, but it is no longer based there. When it was last audited by ABC, it recorded around 1.2m unique browsers over the month of May 2010.
It was most read in Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 25 per cent of its browsers – 295,000. According to ABC it had 29,060 unique browsers from the UK, representing 2.5 per cent of its total readership.
The story alleged that Hicham, who is third in line to the Moroccan throne, had used boxer Zakaria Moumni in an attempt to “bring down” an assistant and advisor to the king, Mounir Majidi.
The report, which is translated in Hicham’s High Court claim form, said: “Everything that harms Morocco always involves Moulay Hicham.”
Pictured: Elaph.com website
The article then reported on claims that the prince met with boxer Moumni at a Paris hotel and urged [him] to raise a case against Majidi in French courts on charges of making death threats”.
It reported that Hicham and Moumni said this was a chance encounter, but added: “Few believe the story of the accidental meeting.”
The translation said: “News reports list some of the finer details of this meeting, claiming that the Moroccan Prince spoke frequently while Moumni spent half an hour listening attentively.
"Hicham incited the former boxer to say, at every occasion and wherever he went, that Mounir Majidi, Secretary to the Moroccan King, threatened to kill him in France.
“He also urged him to submit a judicial complaint against Majidi, informing him of people that would help him do so and asking him to contact them.”
According to Hicham’s High Court claim form, the article remained online for one day and was removed following a complaint by his solicitors.
Pictured: King Mohammed VI (picture: Reuters)
Hicham’s claim form said: “These words have been read by and thereby published to a substantial number of persons both within this jurisdiction, and within each of the jurisdictions of Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Canada, Iraq and Germany.
“Pending any defence and disclosure [Hicham] will rely upon the popularity of [Elaph’s] website, which [it] describes as ‘the leading around the clock Arabic news portal’ and as having ‘a global audience of 1.3[m] users per month… and a monthly average of nearly 9 million page views’, a significant proportion of which [Elaph] states come from the UK and each of the jurisdictions referred to above.
“The publication of the words complained of was actionable under the relevant law of each jurisdiction. Unless the contrary is pleaded and proved, [Hicham] will rely upon the presumption that the relevant foreign law is the same as that of England and Wales.”
Hicham’s claim added that Elaph has a “reputation as a serious and independent source of news untainted by the influence of any state or security service, and which complies with English law”.
He said the story made him out to be “dishonest, devious and seriously dishonourable” and claimed that Elaph did not “make any attempt to contact him about the allegations prior to publication”.
Elaph gives a Richmond postal address on its website. But when Press Gazette sought to contact it there the person answering the phone said it had not been based there for a year and a half.