RIGA, March 25 (RAPSI) - Former Russian lower house lawmaker Ashot Yegiazaryan has won summary judgment in the final round of a dramatic US defamation case against the director of a New York-based democracy and rule of law NGO, according to case documents filed Monday.
A federal district court in New York held that Yegiazaryan's motion for summary judgment in connection with the last counterclaim standing in the case should be granted, and denied a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Peter Zalmayev. The decision was based largely on a Report and Recommendation (R & R) filed by a magistrate judge in December.
Zalmayev, director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative (EDI), was referred to in the original complaint as “a central figure in a smear campaign against [Yegiazaryan].”
Claiming that he had been the victim of a massive corporate raid targeting his ownership interest in the landmark Moskva Hotel, Yegiazaryan commenced arbitration proceedings in London in September 2010. Shortly thereafter, he claims that he and his family received death threats, warning him to keep out of the hotel project.
According to the original complaint, Yegiazaryan then filed a claim challenging the alleged “theft of the Hotel Project.” Claiming that the threats were escalating, he and his family then fled to the US.
Yegiazaryan complained that the threats endured following the family’s relocation to the US, and that his arrival to the country was plagued by a black PR campaign spearheaded by Zalmayev and others.
Yegiazaryan sought monetary damages against Zalmayev for four counts of defamation and one of injurious falsehood.
Among the defamation claims was Yegiazaryan assertion that he had been portrayed in an article authored by Zalmayev as anti-American and anti-Semitic.
In an opinion piece for the Jewish Journal entitled Hiding in Beverly Hills, Zalmayev emphasized Yegiazaryan ties to a Russian political party [the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR)], and his alleged friendship with party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
At one point, the article stated: “Zhirinovsky denies his party is anti-Semitic, while blaming the Jews for sparking both the Bolshevik revolution and World War II, provoking the Holocaust and masterminding 9/11.”
Yegiazaryan’s complaint asserted that the statements linking him to the party and its leadership were intended to falsely and misleadingly associate Mr. Yegiazaryan with Mr. Zhirinovsky’s statements and views.”
Among Yegiazaryan’s other allegations was the claim that Zalmayev made defamatory statements to prominent human rights activists Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, prompting both to urge the US Congress to ban Yegiazaryan from entering the US “due to his allegedly abhorrent views and positions.”
Both letters emphasized his proximity to the top of the LDPR, and claimed that Yegiazaryan had committed war crimes, among other indiscretions.
Zalmayev filed counterclaims for defamation and a violation of New York Civil Rights Law. With regard to the latter, Zalmayev specifically claimed that he had been the victim of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, referred to as a SLAPP suit.
By the time the case had reached the R & R stage, all of the claims and counterclaims had been dismissed except for Zalmayev’s SLAPP counterclaim.
The R & R recommended that the SLAPP counterclaim should be dismissed.
The court agreed with the conclusion of the R & R, but modified some of its reasoning, thus holding that Yegiazaryan’s motion for summary judgment should be granted. A final judgment was entered accordingly in the case on Monday.