Author doesn't want articles on Saudis reprinted

November 30, 1993|By Mark Matthews and Lyle Denniston | Mark Matthews and Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Nihad Ghadry wants the world to forget what he wrote about the Saudi royal family.

Last year, the former adviser to Saudi Arabia's secretive rulers turned against his former employers with vitriol, condemning "the failure of the political process in Saudi Arabia" and accusing Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the high-profile and influential Saudi envoy to Washington, of being "a U.S. property."

Now Mr. Ghadry has had a change of heart, saying that the circumstances in which he based his writings no longer exist in Saudi Arabia.

A Virginia publisher who reprinted two of his attacks claims Saudi Arabia's rulers have bought Mr. Ghadry's silence -- a charge his lawyer flatly denies.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Ghadry, a Saudi citizen and U.S. resident alien, has gone to federal court in Alexandria, Va., to try to block further publication of his former views and to seek damages. He charges that the publisher of the Arabic-language newspaper, Al-Watan, violated his rights under U.S. copyright law by publishing the articles after he had refused permission.

A federal judge, who has set a hearing for this morning, was asked to ban any further publication of Mr. Ghadry's earlier articles. At this stage, the only issues the judge is considering is whether it would cause more harm to stop publication or let it go ahead, and to make some informed guess about who is likely to win the case. Later, in a full trial on the copyright claim, the case will explore the scope of rights protected by U.S. copyright, the harm -- if any -- done by reprinting, and what damages to allow.

Mr. Ghadry, who describes himself as an author and scholar, wrote about 25 articles between February and December 1992 that were, in his words, "critical of the Saudi Arabian government, the Saudi Arabian royal family and the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States."

At the time he wrote them, Mr. Ghadry "had some differences with the royal family [and was] urging democratic reforms," his attorney, Paul T. Glasgow, told The Sun yesterday.

"Since that time, reforms have been initiated, and he now has good relations with the royal family," Mr. Glasgow said.

When Al-Watan's owner, Nizam Mahdawi, called Mr. Ghadry on Nov. 13 to ask if he could reprint two of the earlier articles, Mr. Ghadry refused, his lawyer said.

Al-Watan nevertheless published the articles. One, involving the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, entitled, "Bandar, the son of his mother," was originally published in London in May 1992. A second article, "Saudi Arabia, A Nation Falling Apart," originally appeared in a Paris publication in August 1992.

The article on Prince Bandar charges the ambassador with being so close to the U.S. government as to "become a U.S. property and to serve inside the palace of the pirates." A joint U.S.-Saudi pact will reap "catastrophic results, starting with Iraq today, and won't stop until it storms the rest of the other Arab world," it says.

The article claims that "for a long period of time Bandar's father refused to recognize him until he was forced by the late King Faisal to do it."

Al-Watan's lawyer, Joseph P. Drennan, alleges that Mr. Ghadry's conversion was less than sincere.

"Our information is that Mr. Ghadry struck a deal with the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar . . . to cease publication of further material opposed to the regime in exchange for a large sum of money, and that this gentleman was also to see to it that Mr. Mahdawi likewise ceased such publication," Mr. Drennan told U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton last week.

Mr. Mahdawi is prepared to testify that he was given this information by Nabil Mograbi, the Paris editor of Sourakia, which published the article on Prince Bandar, according to the attorney. Mr. Drennan will argue in court today that Al-Watan had permission to publish one of the articles and did not reprint the other.

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday afternoon, and Mr. Ghadry, a Saudi citizen who is a U.S. resident alien, could not be reached at his Arlington address.

Asked about the allegation, Mr. Glasgow replied: "We categorically deny it."

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