A Massachusetts teenager and his 24-year-old friend are suing the New York Post for libel after the tabloid allegedly falsely identified the pair as suspects in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings in April that left three dead and more than 170 injured.
A photo of the two at the race was plastered across the Post's front page with the headline "Bag Men."
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In the lawsuit, which was filed in Boston on Wednesday, plaintiffs Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi accuse the Post of libel, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy
. They are seeking damages, including unspecified monetary compensation, the Boston Globe reports.
"The front page would lead a reasonable reader to believe that plaintiffs had bombs in their bags, that they were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing," the lawsuit states, contending the two were subjected to "scorn, hatred, ridicule, or contempt in the minds of a considerable and respectable segment of the community."
Barhoum, a 16-year-old Revere High School student, and Zaimi, a part-time college student from Malden, are avid runners who were reportedly watching the Marathon when the photo was snapped.
Both individuals are legal residents who, after being granted visas, emigrated to the United States about four years ago, according to court documents.
The men have olive complexions and appear to be of Middle Eastern descent.
Hours after the Post published the photo of Barhoum and Zaimi, authorities released photographs of the suspected bombers: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
The Post did not comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, instead defending their decision to run the photo with the suggestive headline.
"We did not identify them as suspects," Post Editor Col Allan said.
On the Post's front page, there was a line that said there was "no direct evidence linking them to the crime, but authorities want to identify them."
In the cover story, neither of the plaintiffs were named, but they were identifiable in clear photos showing their faces.
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According to the complaint, both men were identified by friends, co-workers, and classmates.
Zaimi subsequently sought counseling for depression and refuses to go running since the photos were published, according to the lawsuit. He has no family in the United States, the Globe reported.
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