Judges ruled today that French legal action against an 11 September documentary-maker and his television company for defamation, breached European human rights law.
In today’s judgment, in the case of de Carolis and France Televisions v. France (application no. 29313/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court decided that defamation claims against Patrick de Carolis and France 3 were upheld in breach of their right to freedom of expression.
The case concerned an accusation of defamation brought by Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal, on account of a September 2006 documentary on the France 3 television channel concerning complaints lodged by families of the victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks.
The documentary focused on the complaints lodged by families of the victims of the attacks and the proceedings against over one hundred individuals suspected of having helped and funded al-Qaeda.
The investigations by the journalist who made the report highlighted the claimants’ concerns and their fears that the trial might be jeopardised by the economic links between their countries and Saudi Arabia.
According to the complaint, Patrick de Carolis, who was chairman of the national television channel France 3 and the journalist who made the documentary, were found guilty of public defamation against an individual, Prince Turki Al Faisal, who had joined the proceedings as a “civil party.”
The court declared the TV channel France 3 civilly liable for the damage caused.
The European court found, after a detailed examination, that the way in which the subject was dealt with did not contravene the standards of responsible journalism. As regards the sanctions, the fine to which de Carolis had been sentenced and the civil liability finding against France 3 were a disproportionate interference with their right to freedom of expression which was not necessary in a democratic society.
[The following is the official judgement in the case, released only in French. The translation is posted here. Evidently, Prince Turki introduced a civil suit against the French TV defendents, claiming personal defamation in the French 9/11 documentary, “September 11, 2001: The prosecution case“, by Vanina Kanban. Turki’s suit does not challenge the truth of anything in the documentary, yet it claims “defamation” for making the claim. The suit was merely a stalling tactic to discourage others from trying to broadcast the truth about the Wahhabi kingdom in a form understandable to the masses.]
CAROLIS MATTER OF TELEVISION AND FRANCE v. LA FRANCE
(Application No. 29313/10)
January 21, 2016
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of France Télévisions Carolis and c. La France,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Angelika Nußberger, President,
Mārtiņš Mits, Judges,
and Stephen Phillips, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private 15 December 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. At the root of the matter in an application (No. 29313/10) against the French Republic by a national of that State, Mr. Patrick de Carolis, as well as company France Televisions (“the Convention” ), lodged with the Court 6 May 2010 under Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”).
2. The applicants were represented by E. Piwnica, the SCP Piwnica-Molinie, lawyer to the State Council and the Court of Cassation. The French Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr F. Alabrune, Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. The applicants alleged a violation of Article 10 of the Convention because of their conviction.
4. On 26 May 2014, the application was communicated to the Government.
5. The first applicant was born in 1953 and lives in Paris. He was president of the state-owned television France 3, to whose rights the company France Televisions has also applicant and located in Paris.
6. On 8 September 2006, France 3 aired a show lasting one hour and twenty-two minutes, entitled “September 11, 2001: The prosecution case”, conducted by Vanina Kanban journalist.
7. This report questioned the lack of trial five years after the event, posing as the “Investigation on the instruction of a trial that promises to be the trial of the century”. He was devoted to the complaint filed by the families of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the procedures aimed over a hundred natural and legal persons suspected of having aided and financed Al Qaeda. Investigations conducted by the journalist during eighteen months, five years after the fact, made reference to the questions and fears of complainants to see the trial jeopardized because of economic ties between their countries and Saudi Arabia. The victims’ lawyers seeking to pursue those who had helped finance the attacks, the survey also covered this aspect, including tracing the path of Osama bin Laden and the organization he founded Al Qaeda.
8. In the report, the lawyers for the victims’ families, and Mike Gerson My Allan Eisner, were questioned, as well as specialists of terrorism (including Jean-Charles Brisard), Muslim religious leaders, victims or their parents ( like Matt and Elizabeth Alderman Sellito), a former French Interior Minister (Charles Pasqua) and former officials or members of various US services (James Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993 to 1995; Paul Pillar, head of the anti-terrorist section of the CIA from 1978 to 1998, Daniel Benjamin and Lee Wolosky, members of the anti-terrorist cell of the National Security Council, respectively, 1994-1999 and 1998-2001; Jack Cloonan , member of the anti-terrorist squad of the FBI from 1972 to 2002; Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State between 2001 and 2005). Al Faisal Prince Turki Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (“Turki Al Faysal Prince”), around whom the complaint of victims who accused him of having aided and financed the Taliban when he served as head of the secret services Saudi Arabia, was also questioned. Its maintenance was taken over twelve times in the report.
9. On 7 December 2006, Prince Turki Al Faisal the quote was the first applicant, as director of the channel France 3, Vanina Kanban in his capacity as a journalist, and the company France 3 in his capacity as civilly responsible to the Paris Criminal Court for defamation. He was referring to the five extracts of the report:
10. The first single contentious reproduced by the Court reads as follows:
“Allan Gerson (Lawyer families of victims) – They can run, they can hide, but they will not escape us.
Journalist – We went to Charleston, South Carolina. It is the headquarters of trial lawyers […]
Allan Gerson – The families we still repeat and again “We do not want others to suffer the same terrible tragedy we have suffered.”
Me Ron Motley (Lawyer families of victims) – My clients want to know who funded Al Qaeda to be able to stop al Qaeda funds. They continue to operate freely. As we sat there, they are going to blow up half of Iraq. Someone continues to fund Al Qaeda.
Journalist – To support them, they hired high-level investigators. Mike Eisner, head lawyer of evidence, Jean-Charles Brisard, expert on international terrorism, responsible for investigations, Evan Kohlmann, an analyst in Islamist terrorism, computer engineering.
We were able to access the most secure location in the building. It was here that thousands of evidence, documents, videos or photos are recorded: information classified top secret, and for good reason.
Me Mike Eisner (Lawyer families of victims) – There are a lot of very sensitive information in this document. We have spent millions of dollars to get this type of information. Most of those who investigate terrorism investigate those who commit the attacks but do not always target the money. We, we did. We followed the money trail, where it comes from, where it goes and that makes it available. With these documents, we will show how this money is used.
Journalist – Al Qaeda operates as a business. The terrorist group receives immense support hardware that allows it to carry out attacks.
Me Mike Eisner – The truck you see provides logistical support. Once the material in place, Al Qaeda can then start broadcasting hatred, terror and ideas of Jihad.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Who supports now Al Qaeda? Today, the firm Motley Rice gathered enough evidence against almost three hundred accused Osama bin Laden, the most famous, but also seven international banks, eight Islamic charities, the Government of Sudan, Saudi princes and about 300 individuals and entities. We took the party to focus on a few defendants, influential men who today still occupy space on the international leading positions with impunity: Hassan Al-Taroubi (image), the Sudanese ideologue of Islamism , Ramam AJ-Kathim (image), the Defence Minister of Sudan, Al-Awdah Gutbi, a Saudi radical preacher, Turki Al Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence (image). All are accused of having been at one time the allies of Osama bin Laden. They would have helped, supported, in its ideology, but also financially and materially. All would have enabled it to become the worst enemy of the West. One of the main suspected supporters: Turki Al Faisal.
Prince Turki Al Faisal (Saudi Intelligence Chief 1977-2001) – I am accused of having supported materially stocked and had even participated in the organization of Al-Qaeda.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – It was in 1979 that the Saudi prince met Osama bin Laden for the first time during the war in Afghanistan.
To understand how the links were forged between the head of Saudi intelligence and public enemy number one, you have to trace the history of this war. “
11. The report then continued by evoking the support that the Mujahideen had received from Saudi Arabia and the United States during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Prince Turki Al Faisal on it indicated that his country had of course helped by providing them weapons, money, medicines and training them, all through the Saudi secret services. He added he met five times Osama bin Laden, he presented as one of the main supports for Mujahideen. The report then came back on the victory of the latter in Afghanistan, who was also and especially that of Osama bin Laden, income and celebrated as a hero in Saudi Arabia; how he had tried unsuccessfully to engage in combat with his mujahideen during the first Gulf War and at the end of the fighting, called for revolt against US troops left behind Saudi authorities and accused of being accomplices. The report then evoked his deportation to Sudan in 1991, where his mujahideen had joined, enabling the development of Al Qaeda. The report then lingered on financing network that Osama bin Laden enjoyed in those days.
12. The second extract reproduced disputed by the court was as follows:
“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – To fund the expansion of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden has already implemented a major fundraising network.
Lee Wolosky – Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not only based on a fixed sum of money on the family, relatives or even existing networks around the world that could have been used for operations and support the organization. No, what was happening, however, is that al Qaeda constantly raised funds to finance its activities.
Jean-Charles Brisard (Islamist terrorism Specialist) – That, that represents the extent of the financial network of Osama bin Laden as it was known in 2001, that is to say before the attacks of September 11th. Over a period of ten years, nearly 500 million that reached the Al-Qaida network to fund. So it’s very important. This is a historic day for the fight against terrorism.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Jean-Charles Brisard is the principal investigator firm Motley Rice. He was hired by US attorneys in 2002. The French terrorist financing specialist tracking money from al Qaeda worldwide. He has in his possession an original document in which we can read the names of the first financial organization.
Jean-Charles Brisard – There is an important item that was recovered in the course of our investigation, it is one of the founding documents of Al Qaeda that designates as the Golden Chain, the gold chain. This is the list of twenty personalities, all Saudi, which were considered within al Qaeda as the main financial organization at its inception. We find in this list of well-known, former ministers, bankers among major Saudi bankers, businessmen course and merchants.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – In this donor list are, in particular the name of a famous Saudi businessman close to the bin Laden family.
Jean-Charles Brisard – … including Osama bin Laden, a number of his relatives. There was the name of a donor, Bin-Mafouz, which gives, within Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Khalid Bin-Mafouz is none other than the biggest bank of Saudi Arabia. His name is inscribed in the complaint of the families of September 11 victims. He is accused of being one of the financiers of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
In 1986 he became head of the first Saudi bank, NCB, National Commercial Bank.
End 90, the Saudi Central Bank made a survey of the funds paid by the NCB. It puts particular finger on transfers of large sums of money to charities.
Jean-Charles Brisard – It was revealed that a number of funds have been diverted to NGOs controlled by bin Laden or direct payments to persons associated with Usama bin Laden. So we have a bank which may be suspect, even then, she participates in the financing of terrorism.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – And these money movements concerned beyond the Saudi borders.
Jean-Charles Brisard – In the mid-90s, a number of Western and Arab politicians have traveled to Saudi Arabia, went to see the king, the interior minister, the defense minister, the head the intelligence services and told them: “We have evidence that a number of Saudi NGO fund terrorist networks, and networks who commit violent attacks”.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – France is one of the first countries to worry about this situation. In 1994, Charles Pasqua, Interior Minister of the time, made the trip to Saudi Arabia. It will be a witness for the prosecution at trial. He has already made his deposition with American lawyers.
Charles Pasqua – I visited Saudi Arabia. I met with Prince Nayef, who was my counterpart, and a number of Saudi officials, including Prince Turki, who was in charge of intelligence, and I told them that a significant part of the funds they affected the Muslim World League in reality served – could be used, but from my perspective was used – the construction of radical Islam and therefore a basis for violent actions.
Prince Turki Al Faisal – The financing of terrorism did not come as Saudi Arabia but also other countries in the Middle East. There were also terrorist financing from individuals in France, Germany, England or other European cities. So it was not just from Saudi Arabia.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – In South Carolina financial terrorism investigation has been ongoing for four years now. Lawyers know that much of the money donated to Al Qaeda comes directly from Islamist charities.
Me Mike Eisner – They use a large portion of these donations, transfer money claiming he used to buy clothes or food for the poor.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Obviously, Matt Sellito is angry.
Matt Sellito – So people give money and this money finds its way into terrorists eventually be used in order to kill Americans?
Me Mike Eisner – Yes, absolutely.
Jonathan Sellito (Brother of a victim) – How do they go about it is not seen?
Me Mike Eisner – He was seen. You could see it. Everyone knew. With the war in Afghanistan against the Russians, they have perfected the money circulation mechanism. Today, it still continues. “
13. The report then chained with the recall of the car bombs attacks committed by Al-Qaida in November 1995 before a building of the Saudi repository in Riyadh in June 1996 against the American base at Khobar in Dhahran. The journalist stated that no one seemed to have measured the size and firepower of Al Qaeda, while the families of the victims said they were convinced that the US authorities were already aware of terrorist financing. She then remembered that Osama bin Laden had made a sensational statement in 1996 by declaring “jihad” against the Americans, thus also becoming the official enemy of the United States. The testimony of the head of Sudanese intelligence, Jack Cloonan (FBI agent -Federal Bureau of Investigation -, anti-terrorist cell, 1972-2002) and Paul Pillar (head of the anti-terrorist section of the CIA – Central Intelligence Agency – in 1978-1998) explained how the Sudan, under US pressure to expel Osama bin Laden, had come to propose to deliver them, which had been refused for lack of sufficient evidence to convict him hope. Finally expelled and returned to Afghanistan with mujahideen, hosted by the Taliban who had taken power and their leader, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden had then called for global jihad, which had decided the Saudis and the US to try to stop it. Al Faisal Prince Turki said it had been sent to Afghanistan to this end.
14. The third single contentious reproduced by the court was as follows:
“Daniel Benjamin – Prince Turki Al Faisal was one of the only people who had influence over the Taliban. Our hope was that he would come to persuade them to make the right choice. First, because Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan had good relations. Then, because the Saudis supported the Taliban. Finally, because Saudi Arabia was playing his religious stature.
Prince Turki Al Faisal – I met Mullah Omar at that time, and he said this: “We should unite together with Ben Laden, who is someone fabulous, which should not be judged and that we should instead support “. So I got up and I left.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – But lawyers for the complaint of September 11 do not have the same version as Turki Al Faisal, and they claim to have proof.
Among the hundreds of videotapes collected, Mike Eisner shows us the testimony of a key witness.
What speak these witnesses?
Me Mike Eisner – They talk about the financial contribution of Prince Turki paid to the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda. They testify of Prince Turki Al Faisal activities in Afghanistan. Turki was providing the Taliban in vehicles and bringing them aid of all kinds.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – How did you find this man?
Mike Eisner me – I can not reveal all my secrets. (Laughter.) We found in Afghanistan, and there are still many others like him who are willing to testify.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – To protect this essential witness, Mike Eisner can show us this recording, but he agreed to give us a part of the written testimony of the witness. “
15. At this point of the story, a picture appears on the screen: it is the French translation of the complaint, on which one can read the particular § 346 that evokes the “affidavit” of a witness in Afghanistan, said:
“Mullah Kakshar is an important leader, now dissident Taliban (…). The affidavit Mullah Kakshar involves Prince Turki for its auxiliary role in these remittances to help the Taliban, Al-Qaida and international terrorism. “
16. The report continues:
“[The journalist] – Prince Turki Al Faisal totally refute this accusation.
Prince Turki Al Faisal – This is fabricated. I already told you why I went to Kandahar. This was to ensure that bin Laden is delivered to restore the kingdom to justice.
Me Mike Eisner – Of course they deny all, but we have evidence to show that what they say is wrong,
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – We wanted to interview lawyers Turki Al Faysal order to have the point of view of the defense of the evidence held by the civil party.
Voice on the phone – I do not think we are interested.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – You do not want to talk to me for a few minutes?
The voice on the phone – No, we have no comment.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – We again tried to contact the lawyer, but she always refused to receive us. “
17. The journalist says at this stage the failure of several diplomatic attempts to recover from the Taliban Osama bin Laden. The latter could expand its organization, who committed two simultaneous attacks in August 1998 against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, resulting in the response by US bombing in Sudan and Afghanistan.
18. The report then stated that in addition to military action, the US had created a special cell in order to dismantle the financial networks of terrorism, linking this fourth excerpt reproduced disputed by the court:
“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – But nothing can stop the US government in its fight against terrorism. In addition to military action, the United States to address its funding. To track down money from Al Qaeda, they create a special unit whose goal is to dismantle the financial networks. They back the streams of money and then discover the main sponsors of terrorism.
Lee Wolosky – One of the things that the US government discovered after 1998 is that charities and individuals based in Saudi Arabia was an important, if not the most important source of international funding. Funding that supported Al Qaeda and its organizations at the time.
James Woolsey – There was concern from some wealthy Saudi families. They made money transfers that could indirectly help terrorist movements.
Prince Turki Al Faisal – Again, we asked the Americans to give us accurate information on bank accounts, names of people or cities in which the financing of terrorism was supposed to unfold. But we have never been able to discover the least amount of money that went directly to some of Saudi Arabia terrorist organization whatsoever.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Jack Cloonan Yet, the FBI agent in charge of counterterrorism, visited Saudi Arabia at that time and his version of events contradicts Turki Al Faisal.
Jack Cloonan – I personally attended a meeting with General Souleyman and his staff (?). And I gave them the name of a person who lived in the city of Jeddah. I gave them the name of a bank. The Arabi Investment Company. I told them about a transfer of funds. I told them that it was intended, how he rose and every possible detail. That’s a specific example, and I can tell you that because it was me who did it and I have nothing to hide. I asked them information and they did not give me anything.
Paul Pillar – There was a lack of zeal for cooperation and there were more than declarations of good intentions, “Yes, yes, we would help you” that real action on their part. They did not go far enough, not enough to describe policies or important personalities, princes or businessmen who were related to this. Politically, it would have been difficult to do so.
Allan Gerson – They did nothing or almost nothing in terms of cooperation with the US government, asking them to regulate the flows of money in order to stop Al Qaeda financing.
If a country is actually responsible, and it is up to us to prove it before the Court when the government in question must be held responsible for damage caused to the victims.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The lawyers of the complaint have countless evidence against the Saudi charities.
Me Mike Eisner – Here, look: that’s the Saudi Red Crescent. This is the translation of the document. There is their phone number and we see the signature of someone Crescent and that of Bin Laden. Bin Laden wrote: “Our brother Abu Mazen is in urgent need of weapons and I ask you to send already 25% of the expected delivery.” What bin Laden is asking is that weapons transit through a charity.
The Saudis have been warned several times that charities financed terrorism, and they have always turned a blind eye.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – And that makes them guilty of doing nothing?
Me Mike Eisner – Of course. When one knows that organizations are involved in the financing of terrorism, and on your own territory, you have an obligation as a government to do everything you can to prevent them, and that, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it is never interested and never did anything. “
19. The victims’ families were then share their questions and the fact that the United States had not acted strongly enough against Saudi Arabia. The testimony of Daniel and Benjamin Lee Wolosky then indicated that there were no other additional means of pressure available, while highlighting the limits of political and diplomatic action given the energy dependence of the United States vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. The report then focalisa on the terrorist threat on US soil during the months before the attacks of September 11, 2001, and on the fact that the government had encouraged the complaints against financial al Qaeda, to finally grant no assistance to complainants.
20. The fifth disputed extract reproduced by the court was as follows:
“Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – Today in 2006, officials of September 11 are still not judged. Yet in 2002, less than a year after the attacks, lawyers designate those who supported Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. So why George Bush he did not keep his promise?
Lee Wolosky – I will not be surprised that these people in government, individuals belonging to the Government, want this trial never takes place.
Richard Armitage – There always are political considerations when it comes to conflicts in legal matters that are managed by the State Department. In this case, the State Department would focus the importance of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Lee Wolosky – If the Saudis made this complaint a central issue in their diplomatic relations with the United States, while the US government certainly suffer great pressure because they ask for things the Saudis. Sometimes diplomacy, it’s give and take. You get something only if you give something and vice versa.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The diplomatic ties between the US and Saudi Arabia remain inalienable. For proof, for a year, Turki Al Faisal lives in Washington. He held the post of Ambassador of Saudi Arabia with the support of the US government. Yet it is one of the main accused in the complaint.
Prince Turki Al Faisal – It was not for me to refuse, but if the US government believed in this complaint against me, I guess he would not have accepted me as ambassador.
Richard Armitage – If our government and the State Department had reason to think that Turki Al Faysal were things to be ashamed of in the past, they would not have signed this approval. If they have done is that they have nothing to complain about.
Matt Sellito – You can not tell me you are looking for people who financed terrorism and the day after, give these same people a reward for that. Or appoint ambassadors.
Elizabeth Alderman – He was named in our complaint and now he is an ambassador of their country in our country. Stunned is the only word that comes to mind. It was just to show the Saudi royal family: “Hey, we are always with you and we will stay by your side.” I think it was a big slap for people who initiated this complaint and for those who believe and know that the Saudis have financed terrorism.
Vanina Kanban (Journalist) – The families fear that ties between their country and Saudi Arabia could jeopardize the trial of leaders of 11 September.
As for the accused, they do not seem frightened by the prospect of this trial. “
21. Several defendants in the complaint, including Prince Turki Al Faisal on, indiquèrent whereas they would not appear if called to appear before the American courts. The journalist continued:
“Five years after the deadliest attacks in history, officials still at large. Osama bin Laden has not been captured. Al Qaeda continues to exist and the financing of terrorism are still relevant. “
“All the accused are free. Four years after the filing of the complaint of the victims of September 11, nothing seems made to the way that the trial date. ” [End of story on an extract of a televised speech President Bush]
22. In a judgment of 2 November 2007, the Paris Criminal Court declared the first applicant and the public Kanban Vanina journalist guilty of defamation against an individual, Turki Al Faysal Prince, a civil party. It sentenced them each to pay a fine of 1000 euros and jointly and severally to pay the Prince one euro in damages and 7,500 euros for costs.