Widow of Al Jazeera Reporter Tareq Ayyoub Filing Lawsuit Against Bush Administration for Husband’s Death in 2003 U.S. Attack on Baghdad Bureau

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Dima Tahboub, the widow of Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub is bringing a lawsuit against the Bush administration for her husband’s death. He was killed in April 2003 when the US military bombed the Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad. We speak with Dima Tahboub and her attorney. [includes rush transcript]

The widow of Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub is bringing a lawsuit against the Bush administration for her husband’s death. On April 8 2003, Ayyoub was reporting from Al Jazeera”s offices in Baghdad when he was killed by a US missile. He was the first journalist to be killed in Iraq just hours before U.S. forces seized the capital.

Yesterday, the attorney for Dima Tahboub, the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, held a press conference in Washington D.C announcing the lawsuit. The attorney, Hamdi Rifai, said the case is being launched in part because of the disclosure last year in London’s Daily Mirror that President Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair of his desire to bomb Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar. The Mirror cited a secret memo leaked from the British government.

  • Dima Tahboub, widow of killed Al Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub. She joins us on the line from Manchester, England.
  • Hamdi Rifai, attorney for Dima Tahboub.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined on the phone from Manchester, England, by Dima Tahboub, the widow of Tareq Ayyoub. We’re also joined in studio by Hamdi Rifai, the attorney for Dima. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

HAMDI RIFAI: Good morning. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain the lawsuit that you’re about to file?

HAMDI RIFAI: Well, it’s become clear over time that, in fact, what occurred in 2003 was not an accident, but may have been something that was intended. And so, the reason that we’ve now filed this lawsuit is because of the revelation of that meeting between Bush and Blair, where, in fact, it was part of Bush’s plans to actually bomb Al Jazeera to keep them from reporting on what was occurring there.

AMY GOODMAN: What makes you think it was part of a plan?

HAMDI RIFAI: Well, you see the facts of it are very different from other incidents. There has been no investigation. We have also seen very contradictory statements from generals in the military, one that said this, one that said that. We have also seen — I’m not going to call it a cover-up, but an attempt to prevent disclosure of what’s really happened. So, for example, this meeting between Bush and Blair, well, there was nothing particularly secretive about it until it became known to the public that there was this meeting and that Bush had made these statements that, well, why don’t we bomb Al Jazeera? Interestingly enough, it didn’t occur on just this one occasion. It’s occurred on many occasions. So when you look at these facts all together, you can’t help but reach the conclusion that this was not just an accident. This wasn’t a smart bomb that went off three miles in the wrong direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Dima Tahboub, we welcome you back to Democracy Now! We spoke to you soon after your husband was killed. It is now three years later. Why have you decided to bring this lawsuit now?

DIMA TAHBOUB: Well, a lot has occurred since. And this lawsuit is a culmination of efforts we have been taking all through these three years. With the disclosure of — as Hamdi was saying, with the disclosure of this memo, now we think that it has not been an accident, and we have thought this all through, you know. We think that it was premeditated, because also it was followed by bombing of two offices with the same nature accommodating people who are working in the press and media. So this, as you know, this is not the first step which we have taken, but it has now taken much force with that memo being disclosed and revealed, that such discussion occurred between Bush and Blair. And we think that our case now has more strength and more value.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, how are you ever going to get a hold of this memo? The British government threatened to use the Official Secrets Act to sue newspapers that publish contents of the leaked memo in which Bush allegedly discussed the bombing of the Arabic satellite network, Al Jazeera.

DIMA TAHBOUB: Well, I’m not very familiar with the legal process, but I think that — I think if the case is to have any credibility, such a memo is to be disclosed before a court, in order to prove our case, that we have grounds and this thing — you know, such a discussion and the action itself was premeditated, and I think that parts of it, you know, is disclosing that memo.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a new book that’s claiming the U.S. bombing of the Kabul offices — those are the offices of Al Jazeera in Afghanistan — was deliberate. In The One Percent Doctrine, investigative journalist Ron Suskind writes, “On November 13, 2001, a hectic day when Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance and there were celebrations in the streets of the city, a U.S. missile obliterated Al Jazeera’s office. Inside the CIA and White House, there was satisfaction that a message had been sent to Al Jazeera.” In an interview with CNN, Suskind said government sources had told him there was great anger within the Bush administration over Al Jazeera’s coverage of the invasion of Afghanistan. He added, “I’ll tell you, emphatically, it was a deliberate act by the U.S.” Your response, Dima Tahboub. That was before, of course, the attack on the Al Jazeera offices. It happened earlier, two years earlier in Afghanistan.

DIMA TAHBOUB: I think these messages also were repeated on the — the same thing happened on the war in Iraq. A lot of threatening messages and messages of dismay on the coverage of Al Jazeera was, you know, broadcasted by American generals and British generals. So this dismay has been long — not just in the war in Afghanistan, it also appeared the same in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Hamdi Rifai, where do you go with this case now?

HAMDI RIFAI: Well, you asked previously about getting the memo. We don’t even necessarily need to get the memo, but that’s something that’s going to come later. As the case progresses, if the government fails to respond to our notice of claim, we will then file a lawsuit and then be entitled to discovery. In that discovery, we can make demands for documents, obtain depositions, so we can actually bring people to the table with a court reporter, ask them questions, what was said, what happened, what occurred, etc. So even if the memo — even if we can’t get disclosure of the memo, the American public is entitled to know what happened. Miss Tahboub is entitled to know what happened. And there will be a procedure where all this information comes out, just as in any case. There is eventual accountability in every case.

AMY GOODMAN: Scores of journalists have died in Iraq. One of them is Jose Couso with Telecinco, Spanish television. His brother Javier and his mother have been on our broadcast a number of times. They, too, seeking justice for the death of Jose, who was in the Palestine Hotel, April 8, 2003. And just an hour or two after Tareq Ayyoub died in the Al Jazeera offices, the U.S. military shelled the Palestine Hotel and killed two journalists — one, Jose Couso, and the other, Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters. Is what Javier is doing informing anything of what you are doing?

HAMDI RIFAI: Well, we haven’t consulted with them, so I can’t really say exactly what they are doing. But, obviously, at some point their case is going to become very similar to ours, and our case will be very similar to theirs, in the sense that we’re pursuing the same thing, which is accountability and knowing what happened. And eventually, obviously, accountability for Miss Tahboub, in the fact that she has been left a widow and her daughter Fatima has been left without a father.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there, and we’ll follow this case. Dima Tahboub, I want to thank you for being with us, widow of Al Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub. She is a professor at the University of Jordan. Hamdi Rifai, attorney for Dima Tahboub, thank you for joining us.

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