Al Jazeera Ducks Suit by Terrorized Cameraman

WASHINGTON (CN) – Al Jazeera need not face claims that it failed to warn a cameraman about the dangers of accepting an assignment in the Cairo, Egypt, bureau, a federal judge ruled.

Mohamed Fawzi, an Egyptian citizen living in Virginia, brought his suit last year in Washington — claiming that the Al Jazeera Media Network’s negligence led to his December 2014 arrest by Egyptian authorities.

Though an administrative court in Egypt had banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting within its borders a year earlier, on the grounds that it was fabricating favorable news about the Muslim Brotherhood, Fawzi said the Qatari organization never apprised him of this when it hired him to work in Cairo as a cameraman.

Egypt released Fawzi after his 2014 arrest but it tried the cameraman in absentia, labeled him an international terrorist and levied a sentence of 10 years in prison.

Citing lost wages and emotional trauma, Fawzi sought at least $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper dismissed the case Friday, however, for lack of jurisdiction.

“The alleged actions that give rise to Fawzi’s suit have no connection to this forum, nor can Al Jazeera be considered ‘at home’ here,” Cooper wrote.

“Clearly, Al Jazeera is ‘at home’ in Qatar,” the 7-page ruling states later. “And nothing in the record appears to show that this is an ‘exceptional case’ where general jurisdiction is appropriate in a forum state where the corporate defendant is neither incorporated nor has its principal place of business.”

Fawzi’s unsuccessful attempt to assert jurisdiction rested on the June 2015 job offer he received from Al Jazeera in Washington.

Cooper called it important that “none of Fawzi’s claims for relief arise out of these newly asserted D.C. contacts—which primarily concern Al Jazeera USA, and occurred years after the harms he allegedly experience in Egypt.”

Al Jazeera’s ban from Egypt occurred after the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power in a coup after only a year. The newly installed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi accused Al Jazeera of supporting efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow Sisi’s nascent government.

Shortly before Fawzi took the Al Jazeera assignment in Cairo, Egyptian authorities had raided Al Jazeera’s Cairo office and arrested some of the networks journalists.

Al Jazeera attorney Sara Moghadam with Washington-based DLA Piper has not returned a request seeking comment.

Fawzi’s attorney, Martin McMahon, said they could appeal. “We are still evaluating the judge’s decision and we are seriously considering taking appeal on the ruling,” the attorney said in an email.

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