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I Wasn’t The Devil’s Double. I Made the Whole Thing Up. [UPDATED]

cooper
There’s an interesting story by Ed Caesar in tomorrow’s Sunday Times. It concerns a man named Latif Yahia, who is the subject of a new $20m film called The Devil’s Double, starring Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!, The History Boys.) Yahia first came to my attention four years ago, when I was on the staff of an independent magazine called Mongrel.

I had come across the story of an Iraqi exile living in Ireland. The guy seemed to have been through hell. He had been taken out of the Iraqi army, in which he served as a captain during the Iran-Iraq war, and forced to work as a body-double for Uday Hussein. He had been tortured and even forced to undergo cosmetic surgery that he might more closely resemble Saddam’s psychotic son. Miraculously, he’d escaped Iraq and made a life for himself in Ireland, marrying a local girl and starting a family in Daingean, Co. Offally. Yet despite Latif Yahia having been resident in this country for a decade at that point, (then) Minister for Justice Michael McDowell was refusing to grant him Irish citizenship. The whole thing seemed preposterously unfair.

Months earlier, Mongrel had placed McDowell no. 1 on it’s annual “Cunts List.” (I had no part in that compiling that list and always opposed publishing it, but did agree with our staff’s generally negative view of McDowell.) So the story seemed a perfect fit for the magazine. I decided to interview Latif Yahia, to hear his side. That was when the wheels came off.

I’m not an investigative journalist. The magazine I was working for didn’t have any budget to scrutinize this man’s claim’s. All it took me to figure out that Latif Yahia’s story didn’t even begin to add up was actually bothering to read his fucking book – I Was the Devil’s Double – the one that’s now being made into a multimillion dollar film.

I don’t want to pre-empt anything that might, or might not, be in Ed’s article tomorrow. Yahia is notoriously litigious and, last I heard, the legal people had yet to approve certain aspects of the article. Nor do I intend to overstate my own small part in helping it come to fruition.

But the fact is that, even before the film was made, this man’s story had already been taken at face value by virtually every major British and American news outlet including the BBC, Sky, CNN, CBS, Fox and Al-Jazeera. Shortly after I visited Yahia in Offally, he was the subject of an episode of the late Gerry Ryan’s Ryan Confidential programme.

(I emailed series producer David Blake Knox at the time to ask if he had attempted to check the veracity of any of Yahia’s claims. He replied: “Our goal in this interview is to allow our viewers the opportunity to form their own opinions about his credibility.” I took that as a no.)

Ryan wasn’t the only offender. Ed Bradley, David Frost and John Simpson all interviewed Yahia too and took him at his word. Watch this clip of him being interviewed by BBC’s Hardtalk programme last year and notice how many times presenter Stephen Sackur stumbles upon but ignores anomalies and inconsistencies in Yahia’s story.

What’s even more damning here is that Hardtalk researchers actually contacted me before that interview went ahead. I passed on what information I had about the Latif Yahia, which was more than enough to raise serious question marks over his credibility. (Sackur refers to my article in part three.) But they chose to ignore the vast majority of what I told them.

In terms of media negligence on Iraq, obviously, this story ranks some way down the food chain. Certainly, there is an insatiable appetite for lurid stories of Uday’s brutality, and the fact that those ties in nicely with US/British justification for going to war can’t have hurt. But ultimately, you’d have to agree with Ed’s conclusion that, for the media, some stories are just too good to fact check.

Here is the text of my original interview with Yahia.

After I published that article, Yahia’s first Irish wife (who he’d never mentioned before) go in touch and divulged some more scary details.

[UPDATED: Full text of Ed's article is here. Long story short, the guy is almost certainly a fraud.]

January 22nd, 2011.

14 Responses to “I Wasn’t The Devil’s Double. I Made the Whole Thing Up. [UPDATED]”

  1. jax Says:

    Weird to see Gerry Ryan talk about the “islamic” language. I wonder what influence he was under when he thought islam was a language.

  2. Ponyo Says:

    I remember this at the time in Mongrel. As soon as I began reading it I just had the feeling up my spine of bullshit on his part. Of course I could be wrong and you could be the liar etc etc But it just seemed instantly dodgy

  3. Ponyo Says:

    Just properly re-read the whole thing for the first time in years (I still read my mongrels now and then. Especially the Auschwitz article and my favourite review of all time. The Def Leppard greatest hits. Dont know if it was by you). Anyways yeah, dodgy is not the word and bullshit doesnt cover it

  4. Eoin Says:

    @ Ponyo – Don’t remember writing this but looked it up and apparently I did. It’s not dated but, given references to where I was living at the time, I’d say it was circa 2003-05:

    DEF LEPPARD – BEST OF
    There were shrill, piercing shrieks of excitement in my kitchen when this Def Leppard compilation was spotted in a pile of new CDs. Whatever we’d been listening to up to that point was thrown in the bin and replaced with this smelly poo extravaganza. And which of the generous selection of tracks on offer did my guests demand to hear? Was it, the possibly Muppet inspired, Animal? Was it perennial strip-club favourite Pour Some Sugar On Me? Was it fuck. LETSGETLETSGETLETSGETLETSGETROCKE D was the unanimous consensus. Chairs were upended, a clotheshorse was interfered with and almost an entire euro’s worth of Dutch Gold was lost in the ensuing melee. But there was still an awed silence to hear Joe Elliot utter the immortal punch line: “I suppose a rock’s out of the question?” “The humour went over everyone’s head like an airplane”, he says of the song in the liner notes. But I don’t think it did Joe, I don’t think it did at all.
    0%

  5. Ponyo Says:

    To tihs day I can actually quote the entire thing with some degree of accuracy. So funny.

  6. LazyHippy Says:

    Wd like to say i’m surprised but stories of lazy media hyping bogus stories about Iraq all too familiar really. Still v. surprising to read that about the BBC.

  7. darragh Says:

    currently working on something that will use my slightly islamic features (beard, big nose, heavy eyes) to good effect. Bin Laden’s lusty Irish step-son? How hard can it be, going on how lazy the shit this fucker managed to get through the beeb world service.

  8. tomasose Says:

    thàts good writing,pic looks like darraghmc on cocaine

  9. Eoin Says:

    Darragh – Intriguing. You already heave a double tho.

    Dan – He does actually look a bit like Darragh in that pic. Which begs the question, how do you know Darragh?

  10. tomasose Says:

    twitter-reading about agas.agas man some of the time too,had me in stitches comparing this to the time he took acid in kells
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRc0zF-jGGQ,
    heard a good bit of music off him too the field and stuff
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcpoXD_TKY8
    class video

  11. Ponyo Says:

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/48198

    Sounds like bit of a laugh

  12. The Devil’s Double | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    [...] Double. It looks like a decent romp, albeit one based on the testimony of a complete fantasist. The less exciting true story is here. He is still (after all this time) pursuing a campaign of harassment against his Irish ex-wife. His [...]

  13. Siddhartha Says:

    Mr.Eoin, its definitely the case of you being a narrow minded educated but with no common sense.I guess you don’t want Mr.Latif Yahia, who is from a third world country and a muslim to get any kind of preferential hospitality and citizenship in European countries.Its a pity to simply criticize without proper investigation from your end.you need to get well soon.

  14. Obvious Says:

    How much do you want to bet the Siddhartha that posted above is an alias of Latif. No body else would waste their time posting a defense of a well documented fantasist (at best)

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