A Kosovo imam is demanding 40,000 euros in damages for an article published in 2016 that named him as a local leader of the extremist Wahabi movement.
Enes Goga, an imam from the western Kosovo town of Peje/Pec, has demanded 40,000 euros in compensation from a journalist and a media outlet over an article published in 2016 that linked him with the hard-line Islamist Wahabi movement.
The article, “Imams suspected of terrorism are preparing denigrating campaigns against moderates”, was published in 2016 in Zeri, a Pristina-based news portal.
“Enes Goga is leader of the Wahabist movement in Peje/Pec region, a movement linked with organised crime, drug trafficking, extortion to businesses, blackmail, brutal beatings etc,” the article said.
Goga, who seeks 20,000 euros each from the author and the outlet, told the court on Monday that the article written by Arbana Xharra “contains lots of untruths, which I am convinced have been intentional”.
“This journalist [Arbana Xharra], since 2012, has continuously dealt with the institution where I work [the Islamic Community], with me and my family. Her reactions, articles and comments have stirred reactions and hatred from others towards me,” Goga said.
In a trial session held last month, Xharra’s lawyer, Leke Morina, rejected the lawsuit, saying that the article had been based on credible sources, including intelligence reports and Prosecution press releases.
He also claimed Goga’s lawsuit was in effect a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, “aimed at intimidating and discouraging journalists or activists to report on issues of public interest”.
Xharra, former editor-in-chief of Zeri, now living in the US, has been a target of numerous attacks and threats over more than a decade because of her investigative stories.
In May 2017, she was brutally assaulted at the parking lot in front of her home and needed medical treatment as a result. In earlier harassment cases, vandals painted a cross in blood-red paint next to the apartment.
The Coalition For Women In Journalism, CSWIJ, which offers offer mentorship to women journalists from both Western and non-Western countries, issued a statement on Monday standing “in solidarity with Arbana Xharra, who has faced threats and a horrific attack for her investigations into extremism, forcing her to flee her home country”.
“Now, after eight years, she continues to be harassed for her reporting,” CFWIJ said.
“Journalists must be able to investigate religious radicalism without fear of being attacked, threatened, or sued. We call on the Basic Court of Pristina to recognize that the lawsuit brought by Imam Enes Goga is an affront to press freedom and immediately dismiss this case against Xharra,” it added.
The trial on this case continues on November 17.