New York Scholar Wins Protection From British Libel Claim

May 03, 2008

Foreign libel judgments against American authors may not be enforced in New York, under legislation signed on Thursday, The New York Sun reports.

The new law, the Libel Terrorism Reform Act, was introduced in response to a $225,000 judgment in Britain against Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy.

Ms. Ehrenfeld’s book Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It (Bonus Books) accuses Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker, of channeling money to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Other scholars have made similar accusations, and Mr. Mahfouz has vigorously defended himself. Last year Cambridge University Press reacted to a libel claim filed by the billionaire by destroying all copies of another book that linked him to terrorism.

The new law, in addition to barring New York courts from enforcing the libel judgments of foreign countries that have weaker free-speech protections than the United States does, allows authors to seek court orders declaring those judgments invalid. —Jennifer Ruark