Privacy Law

Two men wrongly identified as possible suspects in Boston Marathon bombing sue newspaper

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Two man who say they were wrongly identified as possible suspects in an article on the Boston Marathon bombing have sued the newspaper that published it for libel.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Suffolk County, Mass., Superior Court, names the New York Post, five individual reporters and an unidentified headline writer as defendants, the National Law Journal reports.

The plaintiffs, Salaheddin Barhoum, 16, and Yassine Zaimi, 24, were watching near the finish line of the April 15 race when the bombs went off, killing three people and injuring more than 200 spectators.

Three days later, the Post published a front-page article saying law enforcement authorities were looking for two men wearing backpacks as possible suspects in the bombing. The article featured a photo of Barhoum and Zaimi, who were both wearing backpacks, with the headline “Bag Men.” A subhead read: “Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon.”

“The plaintiffs were not suspects and were not being sought by law enforcement,” the suit says. “The Post had no basis whatsoever to suggest that they were, especially in light of a warning … to news media, by federal authorities, to exercise caution in reporting about this very matter.”

By the time the article was published, the suit says, police had already focused their attention on the two accused bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a standoff with police, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been charged with the bombing.

A spokesperson for the News Corp., which owns the Post, referred reporters to a statement issued at the time the article was published by Editor-in-Chief Col Allan, saying the paper stood by the story. “The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.”

Later that day, the Post updated the story to say that the two men had been cleared, which William Barrett, a lawyer for one of the men, said was itself libelous. “You can’t be cleared from something you didn’t do or wasn’t a suspect of,” he said.

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