Baron Cohen as 'Bruno'
Photo: AFP

Palestinian sues Baron Cohen over terrorist claim in 'Bruno'

Bethlehem shopkeeper branded an al-Aqsa Brigades member in comedian's film seeks $110m in damages. Attorney: Lawsuit is about Abu Aita's reputation, about his standing in the community

A shopkeeper from the West Bank town of Bethlehem who was branded a terrorist in Sacha Baron Cohen's film "Bruno" is seeking $110m in damages, British newspaper The Guardian reported Thursday.


According to the British newspaper, Ayman Abu Aita is suing Baron Cohen, American talk show host David Letterman and others for libel and slander according to a lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia federal court last week.


In the movie, Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion journalist, travels to the Middle East, and in a short interview with Abu Aita, asks to be kidnapped in an attempt to become "the most famous Austrian since Hitler."


A caption labels Abu Aita as a member of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. According The Guardian, Aita is a member of the board of the Holy Land trust, a non-profit organization that works on Palestinian community-building.


In an interview with David Letterman, Cohen said finding a "terrorist" to interview for the movie took several months and some help from a CIA contact.


The comedian also said he had feared for his safety during the interview with Abu Aita, which he claimed took place at a secret location.


"According to the lawsuit, however, the interview with Abu Aita took place at a hotel chosen by Cohen in a part of the West Bank that was under Israeli military control," The Guardian reported, adding that the film's distributor, NBC Universal, and the director, Larry Charles, are also named in the proceedings.


The British newspaper quoted Abu Aita as saying that before the release of the film he "enjoyed a good reputation for honesty and a peaceable nature" in his community.


The Palestinian's attorneys said any insinuations that Abu Aita is or ever was associated with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, or any other terrorist activity, are "utterly false and untrue."


His American lawyer, Joseph Peter Drennan, said Abu Aita was never offered a release to sign to appear in the film. "This is an important lawsuit because it is about the dignity of a specific person. It is about his reputation, about his standing in the community." Drennan said he expects a hearing in late January," The Guardian quoted the attorney as saying.


Hatem Abu Ahmad, Abu Aita's Israeli Arab lawyer, said Baron Cohen made millions "on the back of my client."


פרסום ראשון: 12.11.09, 15:43
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