Back in April, I wrote about how the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) successfully petitioned the British Home Office to revoke child-witch-finder Helen Ukpabio's visa.
Read Leo Igwe's post, Nigerian witch hunter Helen Ukpabio bringing “gospel of hate” to the US, over at IHEU for more background on Ukpabio:
Helen Ukpabio’s gospel of hate — promoted through her publications, films (like the End of the Wicked) and sermons — fuels witchcraft accusations against children in the region. The witch hunts in Nigeria and other parts of Africa in recent years have resulted in discrimination, violence, torture and death.Well, it seems like now the self-professed Lady Apostle 'witch-finder' has come back swinging with a FIVE HUNDRED MILLION POUND lawsuit against the BHA and WHRIN. This is being described as 'libel tourism.' It's actually a very real thing in the UK and could turn out to be a whole lot less funny than it sounds.
Libel tourist and Nigerian ‘witch hunter’ (the self styled) ‘Lady Apostle’ Helen Ukpabio attempts to stifle critics by suing BHA for half a billion pounds
The utter absurdity of this may make you laugh out loud at first -- I did, but there could be a deadly serious legal side to this as well. Ukpabio is a wealthy woman in charge of a multinational ministry. She has the clout to launch this case and potentially push it high in the courts if they'll let her. I had started this story out as a comedic view of the situation, but a somber BHA infographic over at their Facebook feed brought me back down to Earth.
The BHA press release I linked to above gives more detail. She's suing for libel against these organizations. Here's what she's basing this claim for half a billion pounds on.
Her legal case against the BHA is based on Mrs Ukpabio’s stating that she wrote that a child ‘under the age of two’ who is ‘possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits’ can be identified by features such as s/he ‘screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.’ Her teachings are to the effect that babies under the age of two who exhibit signs of illness or standard, entirely normal childhood behaviour (such as crying, not feeding well, screaming at night, having a fever) may be possessed by vampire witchcraft spirits. She also teaches that children who stamp their feet may be ‘trying to make signs… to communicate with gnomes, the witchcraft spirit in charge of the earth.’ Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed these symptoms to Satanic possession and hence has damaged her reputation and livelihood to the sum of half a billion pounds.This is so ridiculous that I cannot help but say: No, not Satan! That would be ridiculous, of course. It's 'black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits.' It's this distinction that Ukpabio claims smeared her ministry and cost her reputation and visa into the UK. And this is apparently worth half a billion pounds in damages. In reality, this case appears to be the latest in a number of legal actions to silence her critics.
Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director of WHRIN, commented, ‘This court case is the latest in a long line of unsuccessful legal actions that Helen Ukpabio has pursued against me and other human rights activists. Previous cases were thrown out of court in Nigeria but this time she is looking to take action in a UK court. I have no doubt that a judge in the UK will reach the same conclusion as those in Nigeria.Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented:
‘Given her baseless identification of features of “possessed children” and her dangerous and irresponsible teachings we feel a strong moral duty to point this out and will not be deflected by libel suits from wealthy “witch-finders”.A story over at The Independant, sheds a little more light on the charge against the BHA and reveals the law firm that's willing to take on such an extraordinary suit.
‘The fact that she is threatening to launch a legal claim for half a billion pounds over an alleged distinction between being accused of exorcising “Satan” or “Vampires” tells you all you need to know about Mrs Ukpabio. Threats of legal action like this are blatant attempts to silence critics of the harms done by these religious and superstitious beliefs and rituals. Rather than entertaining her vexatious claims in the courts, we believe the UK should be ensuring that Mrs Ukpabio and her ilk are denied entry to our country to protect children from their degrading practices.’
In a letter sent to the BHA’s lawyers last Thursday, solicitors acting for the controversial preacher accused the charity of causing “members of the public to regard our client as an evil woman” with the damage to her reputation resulting in a “huge loss of incomes to her churches”. The letter, from London-based Graceland Solicitors, claims Mrs Ukpadio is “a Christian leader of international repute known and respected in many countries of the world”.Five hundred million pounds sure does looks like a pretty big case for one tiny solicitor firm in London.
|Graceland Solicitors. (source)|