District Court Judge Awards Jemal Ahmed Substantial Damages against Ethiopian Review and Elias Kifle
Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoudi has welcomed the award of substantial compensatory and punitive damages against Elias Kifle and the Ethiopian Review in a case brought by Jemal Ahmed, the Chief Executive of Horizon Plantations, after a US District Court Judge in Atlanta, Georgia, determined that claims made about Mr. Ahmed were false, defamatory and damaging. Judge Steve E. Jones directed Elias Kifle and the Ethiopian Review to remove the offending articles and to post prominently a retraction on the Ethiopian Review website.
Similar claims have been made in the recent past by Kifle and the Ethiopian Review against the Sheikh and were similarly dealt with decisively in the British courts. A British Judge in 2013, the Hon. Mr. Justice Eady, termed Kifle’s claim in the Ethiopian Review to be a ‘campaign of denigration’ by Ethiopian Review. The Sheikh was awarded substantial damages.
Justice Eady had referred to some of the defamatory allegations, similar to those made against Jemal Ahmed, as ‘quite outlandish’. An earlier case involving Sheikh Al Amoudi, heard in June 2011, had involved a serious libel by Elias Kifle and the Ethiopian Review against the Sheikh’s daughter and also resulted in an award of damages in the British courts. Mr. Ahmed pursued his case in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived for a period of time, and where he could obtain personal jurisdiction over Elias Kifle and the Ethiopian Review.
The US District Court Judge not only determined that the allegations were false and defamatory but also awarded substantial compensatory and punitive damages amounting to around $200,000. The court further awarded attorneys’ fees and costs to Mr. Ahmed. The opinion is made available here with the permission of Mr. Ahmed. The opinion is strongly worded – no less than those of Justices Eady and Parkes in the United Kingdom – and the award to Mr. Jemal is very high by defamation standards in the US as was the award to the Sheikh in the UK in 2013. This means that Judges in two separate jurisdictions with different definitions of defamation have agreed on the substantive issues of principle in dealing with the same negative campaign.
In the US, punitive damages, amounting in this case to $50,000, were awarded because the defendants’ actions rose to the level of wilful misconduct and because the defendants’ conduct demonstrated “by clear and convincing evidence, that entire want of care that raises the presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences.” The court noted that Kifle “refused to remove defamatory content from his website, and he dared Plaintiff to sue him. Moreover, throughout this entire action, he never once offered to remove the article and disregarded Court orders and the very process of litigation he brought upon himself.”
The Sheikh commented, “I was totally supportive of Mr. Ahmed’s decision to pursue this matter in a jurisdiction whose ruling principle is the freedom given by the First Amendment. Both Jemal and I have been targets in a longstanding politically-motivated and malicious campaign. His victory in court, following mine in 2013, shows that freedom of speech does not include the right to defame. I welcome the result as vindication of my own concern that damaging defamation should not go unpunished. ”
The Sheikh reasserted that he will continue to take a strong stand against unwarranted claims and defamation.