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New York Post sued for libel over 'Bag Men' Boston bombing report

Boston attorneys called the New York Post's allegedly false story naming two local men as Boston bombing suspects "irresponsible journalism at its height."

Lawyers show the April 18 New York Post story that allegedly falsely accused two Massachusetts men as being the Boston Marathon terror suspects. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

A Malden man and a Revere teen have filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Post for running photos and articles that identified them as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Three days after the deadly terror attack, the Post printed the front-page headline “BAG MEN: Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon” along with a picture of 16-year-old Salaheddin Barhoum and 24-year-old Yassine Zaimi.

Barhoum's lawyer said Thursday that the men were never suspects in the attack, and that the Post report made the duo "the most hated of all public enemies."

"They were not suspects, they were not being sought for any purpose, and they certainly were not the perpetrators," said Attorney Max Stern. "The Post had no basis whatsoever for doing this to them."

The same day the story ran, the FBI released pictures of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who are believed to have carried out the attack.

Stern said his client found out about the Post report during a media frenzy at his Malden home, and that he was threatened and harassed.

"He was shaken to his core and he remains shaken to this day. Irresponsible is an inadequate word to describe this type of journalism," Stern said.

Zaimi's lawyer, Attorney William Barrett, said his client broke out in hives and had to undergo counseling due to the ordeal. He also said Zaimi's family in Morocco was "accosted on numerous occasions."

"The long tentacles of the Post reached over seas to (his) family," Barrett said.

Lawyers point to what they called a "lame" attempt at correcting the story online. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO Lawyers point to what they called a "lame" attempt at correcting the story online. PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

“The front page of a newspaper brings with it the imprimatur of truth," said Michael Mone, another attorney for Zaimi. "That’s why this is a lot different than these Nancy drew wanna-be’s on the internet circulating photographs. This is a major daily newspaper and for them to stamp our clients as terrorists… is just irresponsible journalism at its height.”

The Department of Justice sent out a statement in the bombing aftermath, saying, “Any images not released via FBI official channels should not be considered credible.”

Post editor Col Allan defended the paper's report, saying in an April 18 statement, “We stand by our 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.”

On April 20, two days after the report, Post owner and media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted: "All NYPost pics were those distributed by FBI. And instantly withdrawn when FBI changed directions."

The Post did not return a request for comment as of deadline today.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court, accused the Post of libel; defamation; negligent, intentional and/or reckless infliction of emotional distress; and invasion of privacy.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

"(The amount) is for a jury to decide," Money said. "We are prepared to try this case."

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS

 
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