Saudi prince wins UK paper libel damages
Interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud will give ‘substantial’ sum to charity
A top Saudi Arabia official has won “substantial” libel damages against a UK newspaper after it printed allegations that he ordered police to shoot demonstrators during the Arab uprisings earlier this year.
Independent Print Ltd, publishers of The Independent newspaper, and its Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk expressed “sincere apologies” at London’s High Court over claims made against Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper said allegations that the prince had ordered police to fire on protesters were published “in good faith” but accepted they had turned out to be untrue and based on a forgery.
Prince Nayef, interior minister since 1970, said he would pay the undisclosed sum of money he received to charity, the report added.
On April 15, The Independent published a feature article about the Arab Spring headlined “A long time coming”, in which Fisk claimed the prince had given police the order.
The BBC said Rupert Earle, appearing for the prince, told Mrs Justice Nicola Davies the untruthful allegations arose after Saudi Shia activists sought to organise a demonstration on 11 March.
Several websites featured an order allegedly issued by Prince Nayef saying demonstrators “should be shown no mercy, should be struck with iron fists, and that it was permitted for all officers and personnel to use live rounds,” said Earle.
But the ‘order’ was a fake, Earle told the court.
“The defendants now accept that there is no truth in the allegation that the claimant had issued an order to police chiefs throughout Saudi Arabia to shoot and kill unarmed demonstrators without mercy, or that he therefore deserves to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for a crime against humanity,” the BBC quoted him as saying.
The Independent’s lawyer Helen Morris said Fisk’s reference to the order was “made in good faith, albeit in the mistaken belief that the order was genuine.”
A correction published on May 4 by The Independent said: “Prince Nayef has responded that the order is a forgery, was not issued by him and that he would never issue such an order.”