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Major Victory: Paris Court of Appeal Acquits Wiesenthal Centre Official of Defamation Charge
Paris, 3 October 2008
A charge of defamation brought against the Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Stanley Samuels, was dismissed October 1st, by the Paris Court of Appeal.
In March 2007, a lower tribunal had sentenced Samuels to a symbolic fine of 1 euro. Dr. Samuels appealed the verdict.
The charge, brought in 2006 by the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (Committee for Welfare and Aid to the Palestinians - CBSP), was based on a 2004 Wiesenthal Centre report to the French Interior Ministry.
Samuels' principal witness, Dr Matthew Levitt, former Assistant Secretary of Intelligence at the United States Treasury and currently Senior Researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reported on the procedure whereby the United States had designated the CBSP as a terrorist organization – a measure also taken by Canada and Australia.
The Court of Appeal Judgment acknowledged Samuels' good faith:
"Considering that Stanley Samuels pleads his good faith by emphasizing the quality of his enquiry, while the CBSP had maintained, in the lower tribunal, that he had failed in his duty of prudence and moderation;
Considering that this Court accepts, as did the tribunal, that the accused could not be reproached for the legitimacy of the objective pursued, nor likewise, for personal animosity toward the CBSP;
Considering, moreover, that the number of documents produced by Stanley Samuels, and which appear useful to establish his firm belief, show the enquiry to be serious;
That, therefore, in view of the documents produced, the Court submits that:
- Hamas is, since 27 December 2001 and 12 September 2003, considered as a terrorist organization in the sense of Community legislation and French law;
- while it is also deemed that the investigations conducted by the Nancy Court were closed without follow-up, it remains that these investigations, dating from 2001 and 2002, preceded the positions taken by some democratic countries;
That this is the case of the governments of the United States, Australia and Canada, which, respectively in August, September and November 2003, designated the CBSP among those organizations "Specially Designated Terrorist Group - SDGT"; that the United States State Department had therefore frozen the assets of that association; that it is not disputed that the Lebanon Central Bank, from August 2003, had led an investigation into private banks concerning associations close to Hamas, among which was cited the CBSP;
- an enquiry was conducted in October 2003 by the Brigade de recherches et d’investigations financières (the Brigade for Financial Research and Investigation);
- the communiqué attached to a report transmitted to the Ministry of the Interior which denounced, inter alia, facts of antisemitism, the links of the UOIF (Union des Organisations Islamiques de France – Union of Islamic Organizations of France) with the Muslim Brothers and Sheikh Qaradawi, an ideologue close to Hamas who had authorised "human bombs" (suicide bombings), and recalled the United States government's decision to freeze the assets of individuals and associations, among which the CBSP, which, as noted above, are designated as providing financial support to a terrorist movement;
- the Minister of the Interior had therefore not yet been able to proceed to an enquiry based on the elements furnished in the said Report; Considering, finally, that as Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre – Europe, whose notable objective is to combat antisemitism throughout the world, Stanley Samuels disposed of elements constituting a sufficient factual basis for the contentions for which he was reproached, which, when placed in their context, i.e. to call on the Minister of the Interior to conduct an in-depth investigation of the CBSP, did not overstep the permissible limits on freedom of expression, guaranteed by domestic and international law.
Considering, in consequence, that the first judges' decision is to be annulled, and Stanley Samuels is acquitted."
(See: CA Paris – 11ème Chambre A – Dossier 07/02520 – Arrêt du 1er Octobre 2008, pp 7-8.)
The Wiesenthal Centre thanked its legal counsel, Advocates Thierry Levy and David Père, for their efforts – as well as the many individuals who supported Samuels - to arrive at this vindication of justice.