San Francisco Court Says Sikh Man Can Sue Newspaper for Libel Over Terrorist Remarks

Categories: Media

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Libel Cost More
A San Francisco appellate court has sided with a 73-year-old Sikh man who claims that a local newspaper libeled him when it published content linking him to incendiary terrorist remarks.

Hardev Singh Grewal, an interpreter for the Alameda County Superior Court, can sue the Punjab Times for publishing "calumnious statements" about him, according to court documents.

In 2006, Grewal filed a lawsuit for defamation after the newspaper claimed Grewal was unfit as the president of the temple, and that he was against the Sikh religion and out to destroy the Sikh nation.

Another article in the newspaper suggested that Grewal precluded baptism from taking place at the Temple and permitted alcohol to be consumed there. It also said he claimed he would never allow his daughter to marry a Sikh, according to the lawsuit.

After that, another article in the newspaper was published, claiming that Grewal referred to his Bay Area-based temple as a "madrassa," or a training school for terrorists and students of the Taliban.

Grewal then amended his complaint, adding libel to the lawsuit.

"The article claimed that the plaintiff, a Sikh, had described a Sikh school operated on the premises of the Fremont Sikh Temple ... as a training ground for fundamentalist terrorists.The article also claimed that the plaintiff had described the students of the same school as the ... same terrorist organization reportedly responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks," the lawsuit states.

The newspaper defended itself, saying the published content was based on a  paid advertisement. According to the lawsuit, the newspaper says the ads were part of the debate over the Sikh Temple board of directors' elections.

The newspaper attempted to block the lawsuit with an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming its speech was protected because it was in the public's interest. A trail court denied this motion and the newspaper appealed. The San Francisco division of the state's first appellate district ruled in favor of Grewal.

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