Rushdie wins apology from author
LONDON -- What’s an icon of free expression to do when his moral character is trashed in print?
Salman Rushdie forced his former bodyguard to apologize in court Tuesday over a tell-all book about guarding the author, who was threatened with death following the publication of “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie won without seeking damages or resorting to a messy, drawn-out libel trial, something his lawyers said could set a precedent for celebrities suing in Britain’s plaintiff-friendly environment.
“Instead of just going for megabucks, you just go to court to decide what’s the truth and what’s not,” Rushdie said after a high court hearing.
Rushdie sued former bodyguard Ronald Evans for allegations made in his book, “On Her Majesty’s Service,” which, among other things, accused Rushdie of trying to profit from an Iran-backed threat after the release of “The Satanic Verses” in 1988. Rushdie, 61, said while he was sensitive to free speech issues, “there is a straightforward difference between the statement of opinion and the perpetration of untruth.”
Rushdie’s strategy of demanding an apology without seeking a financial award is unusual for a celebrity libel case in Britain, where laws encourage the famous to seek financial redress for attacks on reputation.
U.S. libel laws, for example, require someone to prove that an article was both false and published maliciously, whereas British law places the burden of proof on the publisher.