Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, the actor behind the flamboyant character Bruno, is being sued for 70 million pounds in libel damages. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luNK6Czp9hY
Ayman Abu Aita, is a representative of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party to the West Bank (Judean) town of Beit Sahor, which is a satellite of Bethlehem.
Abu Aita is also apparently a board member of the Holy Land Trust, a non-governmental organization promoting Palestinian rights and committed to nonviolence.
Abu Aita apparently served in Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades from 2000 until 2003, after which he did a two-year stint in Israeli prison on accusations that he was involved in shootings against Israeli soldiers operating in Bethlehem.
Anyway, Abu Aita currently describes himself as a Palestinian grocer and peace activist, and claims that Sasha Baron Cohen’s box office hit, “Bruno,” has ruined his life.
It is not clear if the problem is primarily him being depicted as a terrorist, or that he was tricked to appear in a film that depicts a homosexual character and containing scenes including full frontal nudity.
In the film, Abu Aita travels with Bruno, a gay fashion journalist, to the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon to meet with a leader there. A caption that appears during the scene describes Abu Aita as a “Terrorist group leader, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.” Since the film’s release, Abu Aita alleges having received death threats and that he was originally tricked into meeting Baron Cohen in the first place, claiming that he thought Baron Cohen was a German producing a film about Palestinians, not an actor making a comedy.
Abu Aita alleges that when Baron Cohen spoke with David Letterman on TV last year, he said he had found a “real terrorist” through a contact at the CIA.
Abu Aita is now suing NBC Universal, Letterman and Baron Cohen.
“Bruno” has grossed about $137 million worldwide since it’s release in July.
I am reminded of Leon Uris ‘losing’ a libel suit to a character described in the book “Exodus”, a Dr Wladislav Dering, then living in the UK, who was depicted as a war criminal working on sterilization experiments in the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp. After having their genitals irradiated with Xrays, the ‘patients’ were sent to Dr. Wladislaw Dering, who removed women’s ovaries and castrated the men to test if the x-ray treatment had had the desired effect.
The UK court ruled in Dering’s favour in 1964, awarding him minimal (token) damages and made him pay court costs. Uris then went on to write a further novel, based on the trial QB VII (QB being the Queen’s Bench).
I suspect that Sacha baron Cohen will benefit more from this libel suit than Abu Aita.
Is the case different from a professional actor appearing on chocolate or coffee containers in perpetuity?
Note: I have not seen the film Bruno and have no plans to do so. It’s not my type of humor. The trial looks like it may be entertaining though.