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Get here or else, court orders envoy

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المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald
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THE Lebanese consul-general in Sydney, Robert Naoum, could be arrested within days and dragged before a magistrate to answer questions about his personal finances.

 

The imminent warrant for the arrest of Mr Naoum comes after he ignored an order to face court over the mounting legal and court expenses he has incurred in a failed defamation action against a Sydney journalist. There is a judgment against him for bills now totalling more than $50,000.

 

A notice from the Local Courts of NSW to Mr Naoum warned that if he did not make arrangements by last week to attend court, the registrar was authorised to issue a warrant for his apprehension and the ''warrant will require the sheriff to arrest you and bring you before the court for examination''.

 

Mr Naoum made an 11th-hour attempt on Friday afternoon to stop the arrest warrant from being issued, but the magistrate David Heilpern dismissed the application.

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Mr Naoum's argument that he has ''diplomatic immunity'' and so does not have to pay his legal and court costs has previously been dismissed by Mr Heilpern, who said it would be ''grossly unfair'' as it was Mr Naoum who had dragged the journalist, Nabil Dannawi, into court.

 

The court found Mr Naoum was not acting within the scope of his official immunity.

 

A spokesman for Mr Dannawi's lawyers, Mitry Lawyers, said they were instructed to file the formal request for his arrest warrant tomorrow if he did not comply.

 

If he appears in court, Mr Naoum will be forced to reveal publicly details of his personal finances, including income, assets, properties, cash, loans and living expenses. Mr Dannawi told The Sun-Herald: ''Mr Naoum and his supporters should save him, the Lebanese community and the government from any further embarrassment and just pay up.''

 

The trouble began nearly two years ago when Mr Naoum unsuccessfully took defamation action in the Supreme Court to stop Mr Dannawi's Arabic language website, www.alankabout.com, from publishing material about him, which he said was defamatory and threatened his safety. The material likened him to a mafia leader, and accused him of being a Zionist supporter, a spy, hypocritical, conceited, narcissistic and possibly a bully.

 

But the court rejected Mr Naoum's claims, saying the ''unstructured and irrelevant rantings'' on Mr Dannawi's website were not defamatory and would be recognised by any objective reader as not ''emanating from an untroubled mind''.

 

Mr Naoum appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal but lost and had costs awarded against him.

 

In the Local Court Mr Heilpern rejected claims by Mr Naoum's barrister that the court should grant him immunity from the debt in the interest of good relations between Australia and Lebanon. Mr Naoum has appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court.

 

The Local Court not only ordered him to pay, but issued a garnishee order, forcing his bankers to hand over the available cash in his Australian bank account, $1348.84.

 

Mr Naoum has been consul-general in Sydney since 2004. The highest ranking official is the ambassador, in Canberra.

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/get-here-or-else-court-orders-envoy-20110430-1e20h.html#ixzz2gttEexhl

 

المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald

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