Mohammed Dahlan, the 57-year-old exiled former Fatah official, has decided to withdraw a legal case filed against UK-based Middle East Eye (MEE) and its editor-in-chief, the news outlet revealed.
It said on Wednesday that Dahlan dropped a libel action against the organisation and its chief editor David Hearst, hours before he was legally obligated to disclose documents and material relevant to the case.
Dahlan, MEE said, is now required to pay the organisation’s legal costs, as well as his own legal fees, which amount to an estimated £500,000 ($ 616,155).
In a statement posted on the website, MEE and Hearst’s lawyer said: “Faced with the prospect of giving evidence and having his claim and reputation put under scrutiny … Mr. Dahlan’s solicitors served a Notice of Discontinuance, abandoning the claim and accepting fully liability for MEE’s and Mr. Hearst’s legal costs.”
The case was for an article written by Hearst following the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, in which he reported claims by a high-level Turkish security source that the United Arab Emirates had collaborated with the coup plotters, and that Dahlan was “used as a go-between,” MEE said.
Hearst reported that Dahlan was alleged to have transferred money in the weeks prior to the coup attempt and to have “communicated with Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled cleric alleged by Turkey to have been behind the coup plot, via a Palestinian businessman based in the US,” MEE wrote.
Dahlan brought the case forward almost one year after the article was published. His lawyers claimed their client had a “perfectly ordinary connection with the UAE” and a trial was due to be held in November.
Commenting on the move, MEE’s Hearst said the case was brought forward to “intimidate and silence us”.
“Our journalism has been vindicated. The article we published in 2016 is still on our site in its original form,” Hearst said.
Dahlan was expelled from Fatah’s ruling body in 2011 on allegations of plotting to overthrow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has been living in exile in the UAE since 2012.
He was the former head of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Force in the Gaza Strip, and lacks popularity among Palestinians.