Hatewatch

Geller, Opposing Lawyer Claim Victory in Defamation Suit

Omar Tarazi, the Ohio lawyer who sued anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller a year ago for alleging he had links to terrorist organizations, withdrew his lawsuit this week in exchange for Geller taking down five blog posts containing her allegations against Tarazi. The settlement did not include any monetary damages.

Tarazi is the lawyer who represented the parents of Rifqa Bary, the 17-year-old Columbus, Ohio, girl who fled her Muslim parents in 2009 claiming fear of an “honor killing” by her father because she converted to Christianity. Her parents adamantly denied ever threatening their daughter. Geller plunged into the case on the girl’s side (“Rifqa Bary: Teenage Apostate in America,” Geller called her), and attacked Tarazi in the process. While Geller and numerous Christian activists rallied to Bary’s side, opposing critics accused them of exploiting, or even brainwashing, the teenager.

Both Geller and Tarazi hailed the closing of the case as a great victory. In a press release, Geller said, “This is a huge victory for the First Amendment, truth and the anti-Sharia movement in this country, which is exposing an insidious cancer that brings progressives and Islamic supremacists together in common cause to attack anyone who criticizes Islamic supremacism with the threat of lawsuits, actual lawsuits, or even worse, violence." The day before, Geller’s chirped on her Atlas Shrugs blog, “Litigation jihad utterly defeated.”  She added that Tarazi “suffers stunning loss.”

On his own blog, Tarazi wrote, “Pamela Geller finally caved in and agreed to permanently take down all of her defamatory posts regarding me to settle the lawsuit. This case for me was never about money, it was about standing up for myself. If she had only been willing to take down her defamatory posts regarding me a year ago, she would not have wasted thousands of dollars in litigation costs fighting me. I am very confident that I would have won the case in the end. The facts were on my side no matter how Pamela Geller tried to twist them.”

So who really won?

That’s a bit like asking whether the sun rises behind the mountain or sets behind it – it all depends on which side of it you’re standing. By forcing Geller to back down – something she absolutely loathes having to do – Tarazi certainly can lay claim to a victory. He was, however, the one who asked for the settlement, agreed to have it settled with prejudice – meaning he can’t legally bring up the matter again – and, according to David Yerushalmi, Geller’s lawyer, was rebuffed by her refusal to keep the terms of the settlement private. Geller’s bloviated claim of having achieved some great First Amendment victory against “litigation jihad” is rather vacuous, considering she had to withdraw her post. Also, both Geller and Yerushalmi have threatened others with defamation lawsuits of their own.

Tarazi also sued Rifqa Bary’s attorney, John Stemberger for defamation. That suit was settled in August, with the parties agreeing to keep the terms private.

A court ultimately ordered Rifqa Bary to return to Ohio, but allowed her to stay in foster care. She turned 18 without having reconciled with her parents.