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Consul's claim of diplomatic immunity fails

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المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald
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A MAGISTRATE has rejected a claim by the Lebanese consul-general in Sydney for diplomatic immunity to avoid bankruptcy, saying it would be ''grossly unfair'' because he himself had started the legal action that led to the financial demands.

 

The magistrate also rejected as ''absurd'' suggestions by the barrister Clive Evatt, acting for Robert Naoum, that the court should grant the diplomat's request in the interest of good relations between the countries and to ''prevent warfare from breaking out between Lebanon and Australia''.

 

Mr Naoum had sought a stay in proceedings to avoid paying more than $17,000 to another man, Nabil Zafer Dannawi. He had been ordered to pay the money after losing an application for an injuction against Mr Dannawi, who had published material on a website about him.

 

But Mr Naoum failed in the Supreme Court to stop the website from publishing the allegedly defamatory material, which likened him to a mafia leader, accused him of being a Zionist supporter, a spy, hypocritical, conceited, narcissistic and possibly a bully. Those ''unstructured and irrelevant rantings'' would be recognised by any objective reader as not ''emanating from an untroubled mind'', the court ruled. Mr Naoum appealed but lost again.

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Yesterday in Downing Local Centre Court Mr Heilpern rejected Mr Naoum's application, saying a certificate of immunity did not create ''a blanket, unimpeachable immunity''.

 

''That does not mean he can go off on a frolic all of his own and sue whoever he likes without fear of a costs order if he loses.''

 

Further, Mr Naoum had not acted in his official function when suing Mr Dannawi, and the consulate had not supported the court case or presented evidence for Mr Naoum, Mr Heilpern ruled.

 

He also refused to exercise his discretion, arguing it would result in ''grave injustice''.

 

It could ''open the floodgates to all kinds of civil actions by disaffected consular officials on non-official business who can lose a battle but still win the war as their opposing party will have to pay legal costs without any hope of recovery''.

 

Mr Naoum had dragged Mr Dannawi to court, and the man had had to spend money to defend himself. Had he not done so, Mr Naoum would have enjoyed ''the spoils of any success''.

 

''It would be grossly unfair in such circumstances for him not to be able to enforce a court … order for costs.'

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/consuls-claim-of-diplomatic-immunity-fails-20101026-172en.html#ixzz2gtuI5EXZ

 

المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald

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