Court orders ‘Bookseller of Kabul’ author to pay damages

Oslo: The Norwegian author of ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’ has been ordered to pay damages to the wife of the real-life bookseller on which it was based, the author`s lawyer said Saturday.

The Oslo district court on Friday ordered journalist Aasne Seierstad to pay 125,000 kroner (15,600 euros, 20,200 dollars) to Suraia Rais for violation of privacy, her lawyer Cato Schioetz told AFP.

Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm, which originally released the book in 2002, a year before it appeared in English and became an international bestseller, was also ordered to pay 125,000 kroner damages to Rais, he added.

Written in the style of a novel, ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’ is an account of Seierstad`s time living with the Rais family in Kabul shortly after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

"The information (in the book) about Rais`s thoughts and feelings is sensitive," the Oslo district court ruled, according a report in the Dagbladet newspaper.

"They are attributed to her as true, and neither Seierstad nor Cappelen Damm can be considered to have acted in good faith to ensure they were correct and accurate."

Schioetz said he was "very astonished" by the ruling and would strongly advise his client to appeal the case.

"Aasne is not in Oslo right now and she has not read what the court has based its decision on ... we will have a discussion in the middle of next week to take the decision to appeal or not. But my advice is very very clear," he said.

The lawyer said the case against his client and her publisher was brought to court in Oslo about two years ago by the bookseller`s second wife, Suraia Rais, who has lived in Norway for about four years.

He said the main hearing in the case, at which Suraia Rais, her husband, and Seierstad were present, took place last month.

Rais` lawyer Per Danielsen told Dagbladet the sentence was in his opinion a blow to Seierstad`s journalism.

"It`s now been established that Seierstad wrote to make money by discussing other people`s private lives," he said, describing her actions as "careless."

He added the best to come of the court`s decision was that it opened the way for the rest of the family to seek damages.

Schioetz said only Suraia Rais had sued Seierstad because other family members would have had to put up a guarantee for eventual legal costs, a guarantee from which Norwegian residents are exempt.

"I think that is the main reason why it was only wife number two who sued Aasne," he said.

Seierstad has also written books based on her experiences living in Kosovo and Chechnya.

Bureau Report


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