Rocking the free speech boat
By Dr. Rachel Ehren
Examiner Staff Writer 11/24/08
On Jan. 23, 2004, at 2:33 p.m., an e-mail popped up on my computer screen from the solicitors for Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz threatening to sue me in London for libel. My first thought was, “He found the wrong victim.” I then called my lawyer to find out how best I could fight back.
I was determined to prevent the Brits from robbing me of my free speech rights in America. After all, these rights were the result of the successful American fight against British oppression three centuries ago.
Having been raised by parents who, as members of the Irgun, fought the British occupation for Israel’s independence, I grew up understanding the core value of freedom. Thus, the U.S. constitutional protection of freedom of expression had a major role in my decision to live here.
At the time Mahfouz threatened to sue me in London, he already received many media outlets’ and writers’ retractions or apologies — most not U.K.-based. His frenzied use of the High Court in London to silence the media began in earnest after the 9/11 attacks on America.
As a defendant in lawsuits brought by families of the 9/11 victims and others against al Qaeda’s financiers, he tries to squash any information about his activities.
Mahfouz, who to date has never been tried on merit, boasts more than 40 (!) “victories” posted on his Web site. This effectively chilled further attempts