Opera composer proposes European fight for jury defamation hearing

A man who has been refused permission to appeal his defamation action to the House of Lords has said that he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Composer Keith Burstein sued the Evening Standard newspaper over a review of his opera Manifest Destiny. He said that the review suggested that he was sympathetic to suicide bombers. Evening Standard owner Associated Newspapers asked for the case to be struck out but the High Court rejected that, ordering the publisher to pay Burstein's £8,000 costs.

Associated appealed that ruling and won its case. Burstein was ordered to pay back the £8,000 and pay Associated's estimated £80,000 costs when the Court of Appeal awarded summary judgment to the newspaper.

Burstein then petitioned the House of Lords for the right for his case to be heard by the Law Lords, saying that he had been denied the right to a jury trial by the courts.

The Lords said that his case would not be heard by them, though. They said that the case did "not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the House".

The composer told The Guardian newspaper that he intends to take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

"By now I am feeling that a process of avoiding this case being allowed to be heard by a jury is amounting to justice denied," he said. "All we asked was that a jury should be allowed to judge for themselves. This was first granted and then taken away again."

"I will now take the case on to the European Court of Human Rights as I have to defend my right to freedom of expression as an artist to create works which explore important issues of the day without being targeted with false allegations which incriminate me under the laws against the glorification of terrorism," he told the newspaper.

The opera was about a woman who trained to be a suicide bomber. Reviewer Veronica Lee had said that the notion of a suicide bomber being a heroine was "frankly, a grievous insult".

The Court of Appeal said that the comments were fair comment and were clearly comment and not another kind of statement.

Burstein had claimed that those words meant that he was sympathetic to terrorists and claimed that they would open him up to being charged with glorifying terrorism under the Terrorism Act if, as he intends, he revives the opera.