A lawsuit filed by the owner of the shuttered Satabank against activist-journalist Manuel Delia has been dismissed by an appeals court in Bulgaria, with the case now beyond any further appeal.
Christo Georgiev, the Bulgarian owner of Satabank, which was forced to stop operating due to serious concerns that it was allowing criminals to launder vast amounts of dirty money, sued Delia in February 2020.
Writing in his blog, Delia said today that the regional court of Varna had overturned a decision by a lower court and dismissed the suit filed by Georgiev.
The court found that Delia had a right to express his own value judgment in the offending article.
“The Bulgarian court today found that the article I agreed to retract out of fear of a first SLAPP suit was based on sufficient factual grounds. It also found that the owner of Satabank is a public figure and that I had not been malicious in my writing,” Delia added.
Georgiev sued Delia over a blogpost he wrote back in October 2018, shortly after the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) ordered Satabank to freeze all its clients’ accounts.
Particularly over his statement about “the personal record of Satabank’s owner Christo Georgiev and the investigations he faced by various police forces around the world while being sheltered here in Malta by Joseph Muscat’s government.”
In that blogpost, Delia recounted how he had retracted a story he had written about the bank after Georgiev’s lawyers threatened him with legal action in the UK.
Back then, Delia said one of the banker’s Malta lawyers had warned him that he [Delia] will “have no choice but to jump off Dingli Cliffs” if Georgiev decided to go through with his lawsuit.
“I chose the easy way out. Satabank was not the most important issue I was working on and having to defend the issue alone in the UK, without a realistic prospect of continuing working on the website even if I did find anyone willing to pay for the legal costs for my defence, I decided to bow to the SLAPP threat I was faced with,” Delia had said at the time the suit was filed.
Delia said he was grateful to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, which funded his defence in Bulgaria through all its stages, something, he said, he could never have done himself.
“I am particularly grateful to the ECPMF’s Flutura Kusari for her support and expertise and for finding for me an attorney in Bulgaria who is a specialist in human rights and media freedom law – Alexander Kashumov – who ably represented me in Bulgaria together with my friend, lawyer, and habitual personal saviour Andrew Borg Cardona. I am truly grateful to them,” Delia said.
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