Dubai fest calls founder's claims baseless

Says lawsuits amount to 'a grandiose crusade'

The Dubai International Film Festival said Wednesday that the recent lawsuit filed against it in the U.K. by the festival's former CEO and founder Neil Stephenson is baseless.

"Mr. Stephenson wants to turn a garden-variety executive departure into a grandiose crusade," DIFF said in a statement.

Last week, Stephenson filed suit in the U.K. High Court of Justice against DIFF chair Abdulhamid Juma and managing director Shivni Pandya, claiming they called him "racist" and an "Arab hater" in the press.

The U.K. action was taken after Stephenson abandoned his appeal in California in November. That case, which makes the same claims as the U.K. one, was on appeal after a Los Angeles judge had dismissed it, citing jurisdictional issues, including that Juma and Pandya and Stephenson are not residents of Los Angeles.

Stephenson has brought the court action after attempting "to reconcile matters amicably in a private way."

"I am saddened that this dispute could not be amicably resolved, but I will continue to fight for justice and for my rightful credit," Stephenson said in a statement.

But DIFF rejects Stephenson's assertions, claiming when he concluded his "at-will employment in 2007" he rejected a "generous" severance package.

"Mr. Stephenson's conduct upon his departure confirms the view that he was not suited to a senior management position at the festival," DIFF said. "While Mr. Stephenson accuses others of damaging his reputation, it is clear that nobody could have damaged his reputation as much as he has himself"

Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.
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