Two Moroccan-born US residents have sued the New York Post, saying the newspaper falsely portrayed them as suspects in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings in part by featuring them on the front page under the headline “Bag Men.”
The lawsuit says photographs and articles the Post published three days after the April bombings made it appear that law enforcement officials suspected 16-year-old Salaheddin Barhoum and 24-year-old Yassine Zaimi as the attack’s perpetrators, before the FBI publicly identified two ethnic Chechen brothers as suspects.
However, the Post still stands by its story, and says it never identified them as suspects. The newspaper did not use their names.
Lawyers for the two plaintiffs said on Thursday the friends had hoped to run the race that day as unofficial entrants and had running gear in their bags.
The civil action says the Post’s headline implied they had bombs in their bags and accuses the newspaper of libel, negligent infliction of emotional distress and privacy invasion. The claim, filed on Wednesday in Boston, seeks unspecified monetary damages.
A Post spokeswoman referred questions about the lawsuit on Thursday to a statement the newspaper’s editor made in April.
“The image was e-mailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects,” New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan’s statement said at the time.
A copy of the April 18 front page, which is included as a lawsuit exhibit, shows the publication also included a line in smaller print on its cover saying there was no direct evidence linking the two men to the crime but that authorities wanted to identify them.
However, Barhoum’s attorney Max Stern said on Thursday that the plaintiffs were “collateral damage” in the newspaper’s rush to scoop the competition.
The claim said the plaintiffs saw their photographs on the Internet in connection with the bombing and voluntarily went to local police before investigators told them early on April 18 they were not suspects. However, that day, the Post hit the streets with them on the cover.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said both their clients are permanent residents of the US.