Rushdie threatens to sue ex-bodyguard for ‘defaming’ him

August 2nd, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 2 (IANS) Salman Rushdie has asked a London publisher to withdraw a book by a former Special Branch bodyguard who claims the author behaved badly and arrogantly toward policemen protecting him from assassins following an Iranian death sentence on him. “He is portraying me as mean, nasty, tight-fisted, arrogant and extremely unpleasant. In my humble opinion I am none of those things,” the award-winning author told The Guardian newspaper in comments reported Friday.

Indian-born Rushdie was forced to stay in hiding for nine years, after the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared a fatwa on his life in February 1989, claiming his novel “The Satanic Verses” blasphemed Islam.

Demands for his book to be withdrawn were resisted by his some of his overseas publishers, and led to the murder of his Japanese publisher in 1991.

Former bodyguard Ron Evans, in his book “On Her Majesty’s Service”, claims Rushdie was so mean and tight-fisted his bodyguards locked him up in a cupboard under the stairs one day and trooped off to have drinks at the local bar, letting him out after they returned.

Evans also said Rushdie charged rent from his bodyguards, that he once asked them to be left alone with his girlfriend and that they had nicknamed him “Scruffy” because he was so unkempt.

Mark Stephens, Rushdie’s lawyer, has written to John Blake Publishing, saying: “Your conduct serves to increase the risk to him (Rushdie) and to his publisher, without the slightest public interest justification. I invite you to mitigate the damage you have already done by withdrawing the book and removing the falsehoods relating to our client and his friends, the various statements that invade their privacy and statements about security precautions that remain in place.”

Rushdie dismissed the cupboard incident claims, saying: “The simple fact of the matter is that nothing of this sort happened. My relationship with my protection team was always cordial, certainly entirely professional. This kind of absurd behaviour never occurred.”

“I never heard myself called by the name Scruffy in nine years,” Rushdie added. “It’s like a bad comedy.”

In his book, the former protection officer claimed Rushdie at one point demanded privacy so he could be alone with his girlfriend, and Evans added: “I tried to tell him that having us around hadn’t put Scruffy off his stroke in the past.”

Rushdie told The Guardian: “I don’t even want to dignify that with a response. The police always had enormous respect for my privacy. They understood it was very difficult for me to live in a house with four strangers. It is an obscenity to suggest that I asked people to leave the room so that I could have sex with my girlfriend. I will not have that said about me.”

Rushdie said Evans was a driver who has magnified his own role and that a senior Scotland Yard officer had telephone him to apologise.

The author said rent paid to him by police officers was at the behest of the police because of the high costs of renting houses regarded as safe enough to protect him.

“This is not a free speech issue, this is libel - there is a difference between those two things. I can defend the truth, I will not have my character destroyed and presented to the world as something that it is not. I am not trying to prevent him from publishing his stupid book but if they publish it as it is there will be consequences and there will be a libel action,” Rushdie said.

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