Last Updated: Sun Jul 22, 2012 22:15 pm (KSA) 19:15 pm (GMT)

Comedian settles slander case with Palestinian grocer he labeled ‘terrorist’

Ayman Abu Aita (R) brought a slander suit against British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen for portraying him as a terrorist in his 2009 movie ‘Bruno.’ (AP)
Ayman Abu Aita (R) brought a slander suit against British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen for portraying him as a terrorist in his 2009 movie ‘Bruno.’ (AP)

British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen has reached a settlement with an innocent Palestinian grocer whom he portrayed as a terrorist in his 2009 movie ‘Bruno,’ according to reports on Friday.

Britain’s The Daily Mail reported that Ayman Abu Aita brought a slander suit against the movie star and against late night talk show host David Letterman.

In the comedy, Baron Cohen plays Austrian fashion journalist Bruno - aiming to make peace in the Middle East.

He interviews Abu Aita, who is labeled in a caption as a member of the West Bank-based militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.

Baron Cohen then went on the talk show with Letterman on U.S. TV channel CBS to describe his encounter with a ‘terrorist.’

A Christian and ‘a peace-loving person’ who lives near Bethlehem in the West Bank, Abu Aita has never been a part of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade or participated in any terrorist activity, according to his court complaint papers.

The Palestinian grocer said he agreed to the interview that appeared in ‘Bruno’ thinking that he will be discussing peace activism with a real journalist, the complaint further read.

The response from Baron Cohen and Letterman’s attorneys was that free speech rights protected the statements about Abu Aita in both the film and on the talk show.

Abu Aita’s ‘name or likeness was used in a newsworthy context in a documentary-style movie that conveys matters of legitimate public interest,’ Baron Cohen's lawyers said in papers filed last year.

Abu Aita said the movie prompted death threats against him, damaged his grocery business and made him fear for the safety of his family.

The suit sought millions of dollars in damages.

On Thursday, Abu Aita’s lawyer Peter Drennan said “the case is settled to the mutual satisfaction” of everyone involved.

Drennan however refused to disclose the terms of the deal.

Comedian Baron Cohen is known for crafting outlandish characters and he often tricks people into interviews to film their reactions to his antics.

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