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Colonial Cases

Antonius v. Shehadeh, 1932


Antonius v. Shehadeh

Magistrates Court, Palestine
Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 31 May 1932




   Before the British Magistrate, Mr. Cressall, the investigation was begun yesterday in the libel action lodged by Mr. George Antonius, against the editor and proprietor of Meraat Esh Sharfq newspaper, Jerusalem, Mr. Boulos Shehedah.

   The alleged offence was in the form of an article published in Merfaat esh Sharq on February 20 and entitled "who are the beasts of burden of Imperialism?"  The case was submitted on May 19.

   The Magistrate adjourned the case for June 21, when decision will be given on the objections raised by Mr. Moughannem, counsel for the editor and replied to by Abcarius Bey, as whether prescription could be exercised.


Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 25 July 1932



George Antonius v. Boulos  Shehadeh.

Mr. P. E. F. Cressall, the British Magistrate, gave the following ruling in the above case of Friday:

   This is a case of defamation brought by the complainant under Article 214 of the O.K. and Article 17m 19 and 29 of the Ottoman Press Law.

   A preliminary objection has been taken by Mr. Moghannam based on three grounds:-

  1. That the charge under the Press Law is prescribed according to the Hejira Calendar.
  2. That as the charge has been lodged under the Press law a  similar charge cannot be instituted simultaneously under the O.P.C., and
  3. That in any case Article 214 of the O.P.C. is not applicable to editors or writers in daily newspapers.

He points out that the alleged defamation appeared in an issue of Mer'at Al Sharq dated February 20th, 1932, which is equivalent to 13 Shawal 1350 of the Hejira Calendar.  This issue, he avers, was actually published  and on sale on the day before in accordance with a journalistic custom by which a gullible public is led to believe that it is purchasing the latest news.  That being so he contends that the real date of publication was 19.2.32

   The questions for me to decide are as follows:-

  1. Is it prescribed under the Ottoman Penal Code?
  2. Is Article 2143 of the O.P.C. applicable to editors and writers in newspapers? And
  3. Can the alleged offence be prosecuted simultaneously under both the Press Law and the O.P.C?

   With regard to (a) the issue involved is whether the Gregorian or the Hejira Calendar must be applied.

   The question is a difficult one not only because of the lack of local case law on the subject but also because of the fact that the paper in question was dated according to both calendars.

   After due consideration, I have formed the opinion  that where a conflict arises as to which of the two calendars must be applied to documents bearing dates according to as a test for the period of prescription in offences which are committed  subsequent to the Interpretation Ordinance of 1929, the Gregorian calendar must prevail and months must be reckoned as calendar and not lunar.  I therefore hold that the period of three months under the Press Law  must be computed according to Calendar and not Lunar months.

   For these reasons I am of the opinion that the proceedings under the Press Law were instituted in time  and the objection on the ground of prescription is accordingly overruled.

   With regard to (b) it is obvious that the proceedings are not prescribed until a period of three years has elapsed, therefore the objection is also overruled.

   With regard to [c] I am of opinion that Article 214 of the O.P.C. applies to any person.

   With regard to question (d) while I am unaware of any definite rule of procedure which precludes a complainant from prosecuting a criminal action arising out of the same set of facts simultaneously before a superior Court and before an inferior Court it is, nevertheless, a recognised rule of practice that where an offence is triable before two Courts possessing  different jurisdiction simultaneous prosecutions are discouraged and are usually not entertained.  This has become an unwritten rule of criminal procedure and is based on the known attitude of Courts of Justice who  frown on any endeavour to introduce into the criminal administration  of justice any element of adventure savouring of the principle of "what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts."

   In the present case although the alleged offence can be prosecuted and tried both before a District Court and a Magistrate's Court it is in my view proper that the complainant  should elect the court before whom he wishes the case to be tried and having  done so to confine his prosecution to that Court.

   For these reasons I propose to  separate the present complaint before me into two distinct charges and I call upon the complaisant to elect which of the two charges he proposes to proceed upon, i.e., the charge triable by the District Court or the one triable by a Magistrate.  When he has done this the case can proceed.


Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 21 November 1932



Settlement to be Reached in the Alleged Defamation Case

   The charge of defamation brought by the Attorney-General against the Editor of "Meraat Al Sherk," concerning an article which appeared in April of this year in that paper which is alleged by the complainant, Mr. George Antonius, to have been defamatory, was to have been heard on Friday before the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Cressall.

   Before the hearing began, Mr. Cressall called upon Abcarius Bey and Mr. E. D. Goitein, representing  the complainant, and Mr. Moghannam, for the defendant, for s suggestion of a settlement.  After the lawyers had retired, Mr. Antonius and Boulos Eff. Shehadeh were called to Mr. Cressdall's room.  Mr. Cressall then re-entered his Court and announced that the parties were coming to an amicable settlement.  He then fixed a date when the terms of settlement would be submitted to Court.

   Abcarius Bey thanked the magistrate for his efforts to settle the matter in a friendly spirit, and Mr. Mogannam remarked  that the Arabic term "Haken el Sulh" - magistrate - meant Peacemaker.


Source: The Palestine Post, 13 December 1932



George Antonius


Boulos Shehadeh, Editor and Proprietor of Mar'at el Shark.

Mr. Antonius receives Apology.

Before the Chief magistrate yesterday a settlement was reached in this case whereby Mr. Antonius brought an action against the Defendant, Editor and Proprietor of the Arabic newspaper Mar'at el Shark.  On February 20, 1932, an article appeared in the paper under the caption of "WHO ARE THE TOOLS OF COLONISATION AND THE SUPPORTS OF THE MANDATE?"  In the course of the article certain allegations, which were alleged to be offensive to the character of Mr. Antonius, were made.  Mr. Antonius then brought the present action in order, as his Counsel alleged, to put a stop to the unwarranted and unjustified attacks which had been launched against him by a certain section of the Arabic Press.  In Court this morning the Defendant said he wished to tender Mr. Antonius an unqualified apology for the annoyance caused to him.  The article itself, which was written for a political purpose, said the editor, was written in his absence and he recognised its allegations to be without foundation.  The article would never have been published in the paper, but for his unfortunate absence at that time.

   His Worship, in endorsing the settlement, said:

"I have had the article in question translated and there is little doubt that the defendant is correct in stating that it was published for political purposes.  It contains innuendoes which are offensive, and its suggestive atmosphere is liable to m is-interpretation when read b y a semi-literate public.  The defendant has offered a full, complete and unqualified apology for the misdeeds of a temporary member of his staff who gas transgressed the ethics of journalism by persuading some one in the editor's absence to print a damnatory effusion which, when analysed, leads one to presume that it was engendered by a wicked and perverted mind.

   "Editors and Publishers" continued his Worship, "should remember that the public is entitled to assume that the contributions of this nature are based on truth, and not on mischievous fiction.  Scurrilous statements in the Press not only lower the tone of the newspapers, but incidentally expose those responsible for the publication to severe penalties under the law.

   The defendant has, in my view, adopted the correct course in tendering the apology, and I am sure he appreciates the magnanimity of the Complainant in accepting it."

The plaintiff was represented by Abcarius Bey, the defendant by Mogahannam Eff. Moghannam.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School