Afghan Republican woman sues for defamation
By Jason A. Smith, Henry Daily Herald
A Republican woman in Henry County is suing to clear her name, accusing some in her own party of branding her a criminal and a terrorist.
“It becomes physically, emotionally, and mentally draining, to attend a Henry County Republican Party meeting,” said Sahar Hekmati. “Everywhere I turn, someone’s calling me a terrorist.”
On a local television station, Hekmati was shown at a local Republican gathering, where the voices of females in the audience could be heard, saying, “She is a terrorist … she is a terrorist … she follows all the rules … She’s a felon.”
Hekmati, 37, of Ellenwood, has filed a lawsuit in Henry County Superior Court against five people — Eleanor Smith, Judy Peterson and Vicki Temple, as well as two unnamed individuals, to stop what she calls harassment.
The lawsuit, filed April 27, alleges the defendants, on multiple occasions, orally, and in writing, have accused Hekmati of being a criminal and a terrorist, and that they did so for the purpose of defaming, embarrassing and ridiculing her, according to litigation.
The court document charges the statements allegedly made by Smith, Peterson, Temple, and the two unidentified people, constitute libel and slander, and that Hekmati is entitled to general and punitive damages.
“The defamatory statements are false,” the lawsuit states. “[The] defendants acted maliciously, recklessly, and in bad faith.”
Attempts to reach Smith, Peterson and Temple by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday. In a report by a local television station, the three reportedly denied the charges through an attorney.
Hekmati came to the United States, in 1987, as an Afghan refugee, and has been heavily involved in local Republican politics in recent years. She is a former president of Henry County Republican Women organization, the current chairman of the 13th congressional district, and the current president of the Conservative Republican Women of Henry County.
Hekmati said she has suffered verbal abuse, over the last three years, from some in the Republican Women of Henry County, and the Henry County Republican Party.
“I’ve been called a terrorist,” she said. “I’ve been told they have called Homeland Security on me.”
Hekmati added that the harassment has escalated within the last year, from both men and women in the Henry County Republican Party.
“Enough is enough!” she said.
Henry County Republican Party Chairman Bill Herndon declined to be interviewed and did not answer questions about Hekmati’s case. Other Republicans in local government also declined comment.
Hekmati added some Republicans in Henry County recently took issue with her being appointed by District V Commissioner Bruce Holmes, a Democrat, to serve on a Citizens Budget Review Panel.
“That doesn’t mean you’re supporting a Democrat, or endorsing a Democrat,” said Hekmati. “I was honored that he asked me, because it showed that he was looking beyond party politics. I was looking for the best interests of not only my district, but my county. For them to use that against me is insulting!”
Hekmati said not long after working on the Citizens Budget Review Panel earlier this month, she was removed from the Henry County Republican Committee.
Holmes said partisan politics was not a factor in his decision to appoint Hekmati to the panel.
“In the fifth district, there are Republicans, Democrats and Independents, and I represent all of them,” said the commissioner. “I’ve worked with Sahar on a number of things, including giving to non-profit organizations in the county, and a third-grade dictionary project where we go out and purchase dictionaries and deliver them to third-graders. Sahar has been somebody that I’ve respected. … The reason I picked her is, she has been involved in the community, she cares about the community and this county.”
Commenting on statements allegedly made by the defendants in the lawsuit, Holmes said: “There is no place for those kinds of comments in this county, this state, or this country. It’s hurting the political process, and it doesn’t cast a very good light on us in this county.”
Hekmati said she wants an atmosphere of peace to return to the Henry County Republican Party, and to her personal life.
“My ultimate goal is not to have constant turmoil in my life,” she said. “I don’t want to be harassed. I want to be free to be a Republican in Henry County.”
The attorney representing Hekmati, John Sparks, said the alleged actions against his client amount to bigotry.
“Why defamation occurs really doesn’t matter,” said Sparks. “They accused her of being a felon, which isn’t true. They accused her of being a terrorist, which isn’t true … I don’t think it has anything to do with the Republican Party. It would be defamation regardless of the groups they were in.
“There are two kinds of relief she can get,” Sparks continued. “One is that these people stop defaming her. The other relief that’s available is monetary damages. It’s up to what a jury thinks is fair.”
Sparks said cases like Hekmati’s sometimes take a year or more to go to trial. He believes his client has a strong case against the defendants.
“These statements are on tape. Some of them are on the Internet,” said Sparks. “So yes, I feel like we have a very good case … They have 30 days to file a written answer with the court from service of the lawsuit.”
Original post: Afghan Republican woman sues for defamation