Editors’ note: Given the importance of this court case, the editors have decided to publish their account of the appeal, and their views on the consequences of the ruling.
As editors of 911facts.dk, the only site in Danish that deals skeptically, scientifically, and critically with the many conspiracy theories revolving around the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Claus Larsen and Steen Svanholm were present at the courtroom hearings today at the so-called Niels Harrit libel case against journalist Søren K. Villemoes.
Harrit had chosen to represent himself, in the case against the Danish newspaper WeekendAvisen, and the journalist, Søren Villemoes, who had written a scathing article on how the Royal Library, Copenhagen, had caved to Turkish demands of a second view being presented in an exhibition on the Armenian genocide, which is suppressed in Turkey.
The passage Harrit found libelous was as follows:
“Should we have a poster with Creationist fraud hanging in one of Denmark’s finest educational institutions? Why not just invite Niels Harrit and the other crackpots from the 9/11-skeptics groups, while we are at it? What about the Holocaust denier groups?”
“Skal vi have en planche med kreationistisk plattenslageri op at hænge inde på en af Danmarks fineste oplysningsinstitutioner? Hvorfor ikke bare invitere Niels Harrit og de andre tosser fra 9/11-skeptikermiljøet ind, nu vi er igang? Hvad med holocaust-benægtermiljøet?”1
It should be noted that “tosse” (“crackpot”) is a very mild form of insult in Denmark, roughly equivalent to “silly” or “dumb”.
When the case was heard in the City Court, Harrit lost and was ordered to pay the case costs1
. His appeal, in the High Court, was heard today.
Harrit pointed to a Danish law against libel, §2672
, and Article 10 in the European Human Rights Convention3
(on freedom of expression). He admitted to not being an expert on law, but made the argument that Villemoes had to produce evidence that he, Harrit, was a crackpot.
Harrit proved himself right, when it came to him not having expertise in law: Despite the judges being very lenient with him, he had to be schooled by the head judge on not to make his closing argument during his questioning of the witnesses. Later, she had to tell him not to badger the defendant, Søren Villemoes, while the latter was on the stand, being questioned by Harrit. Harrit would not be allowed to ask insinuating questions.
Among other things, Harrit claimed that there had been no judicial or police investigation of the terror attacks. He did not mention the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the attacks, a trial that Harrit is fully aware of4
Harrit’s plan was as follows: He showed the now famous video clip of WTC 7 collapsing5
(Harrit played it without sound, so we couldn’t hear the complete absence of explosives which – according to Harrit – was placed inside not just WTC 7, but also the Twin Towers). This was, Harrit claimed, incontrovertible evidence that the building was demolished via controlled demolition, since the building collapsed in free fall.
What Harrit failed to mention was that WTC 7 did not collapse in free fall. Only part of the northern facade fell in free fall, and only for 2.25 seconds. The rest of the building fell about 40% slower than free fall6
Nevertheless, it was time for the defendant, journalist Søren Villemoes, to take the stand. Harrit’s questioning did not sway Villemoes: He had described Harrit’s theories as “crackpot”, not Harrit himself. Even though Harrit focused on semantics, Villemoes maintained that his intention was to describe the theories, not Harrit personally.
Then, it was time for the magnetic dust from Ground Zero. According to Harrit, finding magnetic dust is incontrovertible evidence of a controlled demolition with the use of (nano)thermite. Harrit went to Villemoes’ chair, and tried to show him how parts of dust inside a plastic bag was magnetic. Villemoes had a hard time seeing anything, while the three judges looked incredulously at Harrit; they simply didn’t get what he was driving at. Again, the judges more or less had to stop him since the demonstration lead to no real questions. The head judge also pointed out to Harrit that Villemoes had no expertise in this, so he could not make an informed opinion. Thus, the demonstration fell flat on its face. There were no revelatory expressions of any kind, by anybody.
Harrit then pointed to a Facebook post of Villemoes’, made after the case was heard in the City Court, where Villemoes stated that he had written “ugly things” about Harrit, and that he was now sorry he had written the article. Sensing an admission, Harrit argued that this proved that the article was libelous, but Villemoes countered, saying that he actually felt a bit sorry for Harrit. Harrit asked for clarification: Did Villemoes feel pity for him? Villemoes answered in the affirmative. Harrit had no response, or further questions.
After a short break, it was time for Harrit’s first expert witness, Jan Utzon, an architect, and son of Jørn Utzon, who designed the Sydney Opera House. We were promised that, as for witnesses, “architect Jan Utzon will again speak on behalf of AE911Truth.”7
Utzon was never asked any question. After sitting down for two minutes, Harrit concluded that Utzon, just by confirming what he already said in the first court case, had answered all of Harrit’s questions, which were not actually posed to Utzon. The counterpart had no questions. Exit Utzon.
Harrit’s next witness was his star witness, Professor of Physics Per Hedegaard, whom Harrit knows well. Hedegaard had previously dismissed Harrit’s theories as “gak”, a Danish term for “up the pole”, but, according to a press release from AE911Truth, where Harrit was also appointed one of the leaders of the 9/11 Truth Movement8
, he had apparently persuaded Hedegaard that the latter was wrong and Hedegaard would now be willing to show up in court, in full support of Harrit’s theories.
However, this did not happen. Hedegaard answered Harrit’s questions but did not support his theories at all. Harrit pointed to gravitational acceleration which Hedegaard affirmed that, yes, it was about 9.88 m/s2, but the point – whatever it was – was totally lost on the judges: One pointed out that it was hard to understand the relevancy of a scientific fact. Hedegaard then pointed out that, from the data in Harrit’s nanothermite report9
, there would have to be about 60 metric tonnes of unreacted nanothermite, which would mean that there would have been even more inside the buildings that actually reacted. It was clear that Hedegaard found it quite unbelievable that so much had been placed without anyone noticing. One of the judges were taking notes and even had to ask for clarification from Harrit on this point.
When asked about the structural failure of WTC 7, Hedegaard pointed out that it was extremely difficult to explain and that you could not conclude that it was brought down by explosives, merely by looking at the video. When the judge asked Harrit if he had more questions for Hedegaard, Harrit gave Hedegaard a long stare, and said “No, thanks.”
After lunch, it was time for the closing remarks. Again, Harrit pointed to §267 and Article 10, and maintained that Villemoes’ description was libelous. He brought up a point about Newton and Galileo, to which he said “Perhaps we missed that point”, a point he himself should have made in the beginning. He then pointed to a couple of previous court cases, one on scientific fraud, in which the scientist were found not guilty, another one on libel, in which the defendant was found not guilty for describing a right wing party leader as “having racist views”, and a third, also a libel case, in which the defendant also was found not guilty.
Harrit explained that this peculiar focus on libel cases that were lost, instead of won, was due to the fact that the defendant could point to a factual reason for saying what was said. Harrit argued that, since Villemoes had not given any factual reasons, he should be found guilty.
Harrit explained that he had not had the resources to look for relevant court decisions in the court files, but he had read a book about libel cases.
Oddly enough, Harrit pointed to another article in WeekendAvisen, from 2007, where a journalist had written a much harsher criticism of Harrit’s theories, but Harrit had decided not to sue because the journalist had actually attended one of Harrit’s many lectures, something that Villemoes had not; he had only seen about 5 minutes of it.
Harrit rounded off by bringing up Galileo, whose sad story of ecclesiastical persecution and humiliation was not comparable at all to Harrit’s own situation, because Harrit certainly acknowledged that he was just a lowly retired scientist.
The defense concluded by maintaining that Villemoes’ intention was to describe Harrit’s theories and not Harrit personally. It was also pointed out that Harrit did not exactly hold back when it came to describing his opponents in less than charitable terms: E.g., in one statement, Harrit had explained the lack of scientific support among colleagues as “they are all lying”. The defense also pointed to a host of preceding examples of the use of “crackpot”, as in “football crackpot” and “village crackpot”, which had not resulted in guilty verdicts, or even cases.
The judges then rounded off, by informing us that the verdict would be made public on April 9th this year.
If the court decides in favor of Harrit, it will be a watershed decision, resulting in a major overhaul of how freedom of speech, especially for the press, will be interpreted in Denmark from now on.
Alternately, if the court decides against Harrit, the word “tosse” – “crackpot” – is not libel, but will allow anyone from now on to call Niels Harrit exactly that: A conspiracy crackpot.
On the Facebook profile, devoted to Niels Harrit (though not written by him), this was posted earlier this afternoon:
“It has now been a few hours since the court meeting in High Court ended, and over all it went very well.”10
The High Court decided to uphold the verdict of the City Court. Søren Villemoes and Weekendavisen was acquitted, and Niels Harrit was ordered to pay the costs.11
Following the court’s ruling, Niels Harrit issued a press release (in Danish):
Udtalelse på baggrund af landsrettens dom i injuriesagen mellem Niels Harrit og Weekendavisen
, Dragør, 31. marts, 2015
- Lektor anker dom: Vil ikke kaldes for en tosse, Danish Broadcasting Corporation
- Bekendtgørelse af straffeloven, §267
- Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention
- United States versus Zacarias Moussaoui – Criminal No. 01-455-A
- World Trade Center 7, kollapssekvens
- WTC 7 and Thermite Paper Enter Legal Arena, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
- Niels Harrit Sues Danish Newspaper for Libel, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
- Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe, Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley and Bradley R. Larsen Pp 7-31
- Niels Harrit Appreciation Society
- Udtalelser anset for en meningstilkendegivelse, der ikke var strafbar efter straffelovens § 267, Landsretten
Q & A