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Dole withdraws 'Bananas!' suit

October 16, 2009|Associated Press

Dole Foods is withdrawing a defamation lawsuit against a Swedish filmmaker after complaints in Sweden that it was trying to limit free speech, the company said Thursday.

Dole had sued filmmaker Fredrik Gertten for showing the documentary "Bananas!" despite a court ruling that the case on which the film was based had been part of a massive extortion plot against the company.

The documentary shows the alleged plight of Nicaraguan workers who say they were made sterile by a pesticide used at Dole banana plantations in the 1970s.

Dole's lawsuit sparked protests in Sweden, where critics said the food company was trying to interfere with the freedom of speech.

In a statement, Dole said it had decided to withdraw the lawsuit "in light of the free speech concerns being expressed in Sweden, although it continues to believe in the merits of its case."

The film was completed before a California judge dismissed two cases against Dole, saying the workers were recruited by a lawyer to lie. That ruling has been appealed.

The film was shown twice at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June with a lengthy written disclaimer by organizers who said it did not present a fair and accurate account but was worth showing as "a case study" of what happens when a story changes after a documentary is completed. It has been showing at cinemas in Sweden since Oct. 9.

Gertten said in Stockholm that he was happy about Dole's decision and that he hoped the film could now continue to be screened in the U.S. and Canada.

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