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Amazon pays libel damages again over Northern Ireland book

Third time around

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Amazon.com has publicly apologised for distributing a book that contained a series of false allegations about killings in Northern Ireland.

Seven retired police officers won the apology - and undisclosed damages - after Amazon distributed the book The Committee: Political Assassination in Northern Ireland by Sean McPhilemy.

The book contained allegations about a plot by loyalists to murder Irish Catholics. The book was never distributed in UK bookshops, but was made available online through Amazon UK.

According to reports, many of the allegations contained in the book have since been discredited and recognised as being libellous.

The Committee has landed Amazon in trouble before. In 1999, David Trimble, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leading Unionist politician, sued Amazon successfully over The Committee. Showing extremely poor judgement, Amazon withdrew the book for sale from its UK site, directing readers instead to buy the book from Amazon.com, where it was freely available. The company at the time presented its action as a commitment to free speech.

And in an unfortunate adminstrative cock-up, Amazon.com started selling The Committee again on its site, after paying Trimble damages. Worse, reader reviews recounted the libellous allegations. Trimble once more went to court, winning damages for a second time in 2002.

No one at Amazon was available for comment at the time of writing. ®

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