Cambridge University Press has defaulted on a libel suit filed against it by a Saudi billionaire, issuing an apology, agreeing to pay court fees and damages and agreeing to destroy all unsold copies of a 2006 book by two American authors, as well as asking libraries to remove the book from their shelves.
In an apology published on its website, the academic publisher wrote:
“In 2006 Cambridge University Press published ‘Alms for Jihad’ written by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins which made certain defamatory allegations about Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz and his family in connection with the funding of terrorism.
“Whilst the allegations were originally published in good faith, Cambridge University Press now recognizes that the information upon which they were based was wrong. Cambridge University Press accepts that there is no truth whatsoever in these serious allegations.”
Kevin Taylor, intellectual property director at Cambridge, told the Cambridge Evening News the company had agreed to pay out a “fairly small amount” in compensation.
He said three expert academics read books before they are published, and pay particular attention to those with controversial issues, but said, “unfortunately this one slipped through the net.”
“We publish 1,500 academic books a year and take every effort to ensure this sort of thing does not happen,” he said.
But the authors dispute the Cambridge claim of sloppy editing and Mahfouz’s charge of libel, saying they mentioned the Saudi sheikh only 13 times in their book and they in no way labeled him a terrorist.
This is not the first time Mahfouz has used British courts to silence critics whose works have alleged links to terror funding.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, said Mahfouz has successfully brought at least four prior lawsuits against authors. Cambridge University Press’s apology, without making an effort to defend its authors in court, he said, has “ominous implications” into researching the financing of terrorism.