Boston man sues UAE sheik for defamation

March 17, 2011

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BOSTON—A Boston man who alleges that a brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates whipped him with a belt in a Swiss hotel bar has filed a $7 million defamation lawsuit, claiming that the sheik and his associates have made false statements about him and slandered him in the news media.

Sheik Falah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was fined for his alleged attack on Silvano Orsi, but a Swiss appeals court quashed his conviction of inflicting bodily harm with a dangerous object.

Orsi, who grew up in suburban Rochester, N.Y., alleges that the sheik hit him repeatedly with his steel-buckled belt after Orsi rejected his sexual advances and politely declined a bottle of champagne in a luxury hotel bar in Geneva. He said he sustained a herniated disk and nerve damage in his right leg in the 2003 attack.

In his lawsuit, Orsi, now a law student at Boston University, claims the sheik and his associates slandered him through false testimony and in statements made to news organizations.

"We believe that the statements have falsely portrayed him as being anti-Islamic and homophobic, and a generally violent person, which has resulted in his inability to get employment and resulted in further mental anguish as well as a great loss to his professional reputation and his professional standing in the community," said Jerrold Neeff, Orsi's Boston lawyer.

Al Nahyan has denied Orsi's allegations. He told investigators that he got into a heated argument with Orsi after he overheard someone call him gay. His lawyer said previously that Orsi's legal complaint was full of lies meant to pressure the sheik for money.

The lawsuit seeks $7 million in damages for emotional distress, loss of business, personal humiliation and mental anguish.

Al Nahyan is a brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was appointed president of the United Arab Emirates in 2004 after the death of their father, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.