Elon Musk goes on trial in US for defamation over ‘pedo guy’ tweet

In this Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, British cave expert Vernon Unsworth talks with guests at an event titled the "United as One" in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Elon Musk goes on trial in US for defamation over ‘pedo guy’ tweet

  • Unsworth played a leading role in the recovery of the 12 boys and their coach from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in July 2018

LOS ANGELES: Tesla boss Elon Musk is set to go on trial on Tuesday after he described a British cave explorer who helped rescue a group of boys from a cave complex in Thailand as a pedophile on Twitter.
Vernon Unsworth, who played a leading role in the recovery of the 12 boys and their football coach from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in July 2018, has said Musk falsely labeled him a “pedo guy” on Twitter.
He says Musk, whose Twitter habits have long been under a microscope, should pay punitive and other damages for harming his reputation.
The trial before US District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles is scheduled to last about five days. Musk is expected to testify in his own defense. He has apologized for the remark.
While the case does not involve Tesla, investors and regulators have expressed concerns about the accuracy of his tweets.
With 29.8 million followers, Musk’s Twitter account is a major source of publicity for his Palo Alto, California-based electric car company, which does not advertise.
The Unsworth case is among the last issues hanging over Musk from a turbulent 2018 and early 2019, when he regularly clashed with Wall Street and short sellers as Tesla struggled with production problems.
The episode began after Musk offered a mini-submarine from his SpaceX rocket company to help with the cave rescue.
Unsworth told CNN on July 13, 2018, three days after the rescue was completed, that the offer was a “PR stunt” and that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Two days later, Musk lashed out at Unsworth in a series of tweets, including one which called him a “pedo guy.” Musk later apologized for that comment.
Unsworth has denied Musk’s accusations.
To win the defamation case, Unsworth needs to show that Musk was negligent, which does not require an intent to defame.
He must prove the tweets were false, that Musk did not use reasonable care to determine if they were true, and that people reasonably understood them to mean he was a pedophile.
The case against Musk got a boost when Wilson last month said Unsworth’s sudden fame from the rescue did not make him a “public figure,” meaning he did not need to show that Musk acted with “actual malice” when posting his tweets.
Lawyers for Musk have said the tweets were opinion, not statements of fact, and that Unsworth knew of no one who thought he was a pedophile based on them.
They have also said Unsworth sought to profit from his role in the rescue and provoked Musk’s response by suggesting on CNN that Musk did not care about the lives of the trapped boys.


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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