Giuliani Slams Noriega’s ‘Absurd’ Lawsuit

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Although he chuckled about what he called former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega’s “absurd” lawsuit against “Call of Duty” makers, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani added that it was no laughing matter.
     “Think of it this way: This would allow Osama bin Laden’s heirs to sue the makers of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ for the portrayal of Osama bin Laden in that movie,” he told reporters.
     The comparison had a special importance for Giuliani, whose political career has been defined by his response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
     Echoing President George W. Bush’s description of the so-called war on terror, Giuliani framed Noriega’s lawsuit against Activision Entertainment as a battle between “good versus evil.” He said it reminded him of a John Wayne movie.
     Noriega, the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, has been incarcerated in various countries after the U.S. Army ousted him from the Vatican Embassy to face charges of drug dealing, racketeering and money laundering. France convicted him in absentia during his time in U.S. custody, and he was extradited there in 2007.
     In 2001, Noriega was extradited again to Panama.
     From his 20-year sentence there, the ex-dictator complained this year that “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” misappropriated his image by briefly portraying him as a bad guy in the video game.
     Giuliani, who now works for the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, announced on Monday that he would try to dismiss the suit under anti-SLAPP law, which bans the filing of lawsuits that would squelch a defendant’s First Amendment rights.
     Giuliani is not everybody’s idea of a free-speech icon.
     The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression gave Giuliani a “lifetime muzzle” award for more than a dozen legal battles over a “wide range of public expression,” most famously involving litigation over an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.
     Giuliani threatened to cut the museum’s funding for its “Sensation” exhibit that included Chris Ofili’s painting “Holy Virgin Mary,” and other works.
     Ofili, one of the “Young British Artists” now living in Trinidad, courted controversy by using dried elephant dung to lean the canvas against the wall and to decorate the canvas, which depicted pornographic cutouts surrounding Mary, repelled by her halo.
     While Catholics like Giuliani said they were offended, Ofili said his purpose had been pious. He said that he used elephant dung in all of his works because Nigerian grandparents thought of it as a symbol of fertility.
     Legendary free-speech lawyer Floyd Abrams defended the Brooklyn Museum in court, and won an injunction forbidding Giuliani from punishing the museum for the exhibit.
     Giuliani defended his free-speech record in that case.
     “Although I disagreed with [‘The Holy Virgin Mary’] and found it offensive, I was more than willing to allow them to do that and have the police protect them if that was necessary,” Giuliani told Courthouse News. “What I didn’t want to do was give them city money in order to do that.”
     Giuliani also pointed out that, before he was mayor, he represented the Daily News, the Wall Street Journal and Barrons in First Amendment cases as a partner in the Manhattan-based firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler LLP.
     Noriega’s lawyer Thomas Girardi with Girardi & Keese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
     Critics accused the Reagan administration of ignoring the crimes of Noriega, who was on the CIA payroll for years, because he assisted the United States’ wars against insurrections in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

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