The court ruling yesterday in NIAC’s lawsuit against Seyyed Hassan Daieoleslam granted NIAC victory on its central demand, while falling short on other objectives.
NIAC brought the lawsuit against Daieoleslam in 2008 in response to his slander and defamation against the organization and its co-founder, Trita Parsi. Our objective with the lawsuit was two-fold.
First, to challenge Daieoleslam’s false accusations that NIAC lobbied for the Iranian government in court and force the defendant to prove his case or concede.
On this crucial issue, NIAC prevailed. Once in front of the court, Daieoleslam had the opportunity to make his case for the truth. Instead, he changed his tune and did not seek to argue that his accusations were correct and truthful. Instead he essentially abandoned the truth and instead argued that NIAC could not prove that he knew what he was saying was false, i,e malicious. By that, he conceded this very essential point and is on notice that what he is saying is false and therefore would be acting with malice if he continues to make the same false, baseless and defamatory allegations.
The defendant’s shift is understandable mindful of the fact that after reviewing thousands of NIAC emails and documents, he could not point to a single shred of evidence indicating that NIAC served as a lobby for the repressive government in Iran.
The judge points to this as well in his ruling, writing that “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as a finding that defendant’s articles were true. Defendant did not move for summary judgment on that ground.”
The second objective with the lawsuit was to change the nature of the political culture in the Iranian-American community, away from the slander, defamation and character assassination campaigns favored by some, and towards a more open and truthful discourse. Our hope was that by challenging the maliciousness and defamation, the culture would shift in a democratic direction.
On this point, our efforts fell short. The standard was for us to prove that Daieoleslam acted with malice, that is, not just that he was not speaking the truth, but that he knew he wasn’t speaking the truth.
While we believe the evidence clearly showed that Daieoleslam knew he was lying, based on his systematic disregard for truth, neglect of readily available information that contradicted his conspiracy theories, declaration that he aimed to “destroy NIAC” in order to “bring down Obama,” as well as his support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq terrorist organization, the Judge felt this didn’t meet his standard and denied us the opportunity to take Daieoleslam in front of a jury and help democratize the political culture in the Iranian-American community.
While we regret that such a milestone could not be achieved for the Iranian-American community, we are content that in the court of law he could not and did not defend his false accusations.
In regards to cost-sharing of the expense of the discovery, we disagree with the court’s ruling and retain the option to challenge and appeal the decision.
These past four years have been challenging and burdensome. NIAC is a small organization, with a small budget and a small legal team. Our only card was that we knew – and we proved – that truth was on our side. Daieoleslam, on the other hand, had the support of a broad network of well-funded pro-war figures. He was represented by Sidley Austin, one of the largest law firms in the world and the main counsel on his legal team was President George W. Bush’s lawyer in the White House.
But precisely because he didn’t have truth on his side, Daieoleslam tried to shift the focus of the court away from the central charge and instead overwhelm NIAC with legal expenses by filing an endless stream of motions.
The order of the judge also puts Daieoleslam on notice. While he claimed not to have known that what he was writing was false, he no longer can hide behind that excuse going forward. He is on notice and will pay the consequences of further defamation.
In the past ten years, NIAC has helped transform the Iranian-American community from being politically apathetic and vulnerable to becoming dynamic and in ownership of their own destiny. We have helped the community stand up against the voices of war, stand up for their rights in face of discrimination, and stand up for the values that make America strong. NIAC will continue to serve the interest of the Iranian-American community, particularly at this moment when the risk of war is increasing, repression in Iran is intensifying and the suffering of the Iranian people is reaching intolerable levels.