Melbourne Couple Fight for Justice After Devastating Allegations
A Melbourne couple's life was turned upside down in November 2020 when their home was raided, and they were arrested amid allegations of involvement in a multi-million-dollar fraud. Ola Ouda and Amjad Shehada faced a relentless public pile-on, including vile racist abuse, after their names were linked to the alleged fraud scheme. Struggling to cope with the scrutiny and humiliation, the couple's anguish reached its peak when Mr. Shehada received a horrifying Christmas card with human faeces inside, leaving him shaken and vomiting.
The Allegations Unveiled
The allegations against Ouda and Shehada surfaced during a press conference organized by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Commander Todd Hunter, without explicitly naming the couple, discussed the charges against childcare educators involved in an alleged fraud scheme
exceeding $15 million. The media quickly associated the couple's names with the allegations, displaying their faces across television news and newspapers.
Ten months later, the AFP quietly dropped the charges against Ouda and Shehada, but the damage was already done. Their reputations were tarnished, and their lives shattered. The couple knew they had done nothing wrong, yet the defamation they experienced left them feeling abandoned and betrayed.
In their quest for justice, Ouda and Shehada decided to take legal action against former AFP commander Todd Hunter and the Commonwealth for defamation. The couple sought to prove that Hunter's words at the press conference conveyed dishonesty and theft to the public. During the civil jury trial, David Gilbertson KC, representing the couple,
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Hunter, suggesting that the media had been subtly encouraged to identify Ouda and Shehada despite Hunter's denial.
The Impact of Defamation
The couple recounted the immense toll the ordeal took on their lives. Their restaurant, targeted with negative reviews, was eventually sold at a loss. Their bank accounts were closed, and Ouda's childcare business approval was canceled and not reinstated. Beyond the financial losses, the negative publicity resulted in social media backlash, bullying of their children, and significant difficulty finding new employment opportunities.
The Path to Justice
As the courtroom drama unfolded, the jury was left to decide whether Hunter's words had indeed defamed the couple. Hunter's defense team invoked qualified privilege, arguing that the press conference was an occasion where he was entitled to
openly. The couple, on the other hand, maintained that the defamation was intentional and had left them emotionally scarred for life.
A Long Road Ahead
For Ola Ouda and Amjad Shehada, the defamation case represents more than just a legal battle. It is a fight for vindication, to reclaim their damaged reputation, and to rebuild their lives from the ruins left by the false allegations. As the trial continues, they hope that justice will prevail, offering them the chance to heal and move forward.
In a society where false accusations can have devastating consequences, this case serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of fair and responsible reporting, and the need to support those who find themselves unjustly caught in the crossfire of public scrutiny.