Bookseller of Kabul writer ordered to pay damages

Norwegian war correspondent Asne Seierstad has been ordered to pay $40,000 US in damages to a woman profiled in her book, The Bookseller of Kabul.

Court says Norwegian journalist breached privacy

A court in Oslo has ordered a Norwegian journalist and her publisher to pay the equivalent of $40,000 US in damages to an Afghan woman portrayed in the book The Bookseller of Kabul.

The court ruled that war correspondent Asne Seierstad breached the privacy of Suraia Rais, whose husband, Shah Muhammad Rais, is the titular character in the book.

Friday's decision also stated that Seierstad had used inaccurate information in her accounts of Suraia Rais and didn't act in good faith.

Seierstad lived with the Rais family in Kabul in 2002 for three months and then wrote about the experience in a nonfiction book, published in 2004. The journalist attempted to hide the identity of the Rais family by renaming the bookseller Sultan Khan but the family is well known in Kabul.

Rais claims to have the world's biggest collection of books on Afghanistan in major international languages.

Lawyer Cato Schiotz said he's encouraging his client and her publisher, Cappelen Damm, to appeal.

The book was a worldwide bestseller, hailed by Publisher's Weekly for its "intimacy and brutal honesty with which it portrays the lives of Afghani living under fundamentalist Islam."

Much of Seierstad's observations are about the religious situation in the country and how it relates to the treatment of women.

While touring Scandinavia in 2005, Rais said Seierstad's book had made life for him and his family unsafe in Afghanistan, where bootleg versions were available.

The bookseller has long disputed the observations in Seierstad's book, which paints him in an unflattering light in relation to the women in his life.

In 2007, Rais published his own memoir, Once Upon a Time There Was a Bookseller in Kabul.