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Duchess Meghan responds to tabloid’s appeal in lawsuit over letter to her estranged dad

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(NEW YORK) -- Duchess Meghan has responded to a tabloid publisher's appeal of a privacy case she won earlier this year, saying she is "standing up for what's right."

"It's an arduous process but, again, it's just me standing up for what's right," Meghan said Tuesday at The New York Times DealBook Online Summit. "At a certain point, no matter how difficult it is, you know the difference between right and wrong, you must stand up for what's right, and that's what I'm doing."

Meghan, who now lives in California with her husband, Prince Harry, and their two children, sued Associated Newspapers Ltd., a U.K. tabloid publisher, in 2019 for alleged copyright infringement, misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act over the publication of a handwritten letter she wrote to her now-estranged father, Thomas Markle, in 2018, ahead of her wedding to Harry.

The letter was reproduced by Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, in five articles in February 2019.

Meghan won in a summary judgement earlier this year, but Associated Newspapers has appealed, requesting that the case go to trial and claiming new evidence shows Meghan knew the letter might be made public.

"The fundamental point turns out to be false on the new evidence," a lawyer for the publishing group said in court Tuesday. "The letter was crafted specifically with the potential of public consumption in mind because the claimant appreciated Mr. Markle might disclose it to the media."

The new evidence cited by the publishing group is testimony from Harry and Meghan's former communications secretary Jason Knauf.

Knauf, who reportedly filed a complaint against Meghan in 2018 over her alleged treatment of aides, claims in a witness statement that Meghan "indicated in messages to me that she recognized that it was possible that Mr. Markle would make the letter public."

"When the Duchess was considering how to handle Mr. Markle’s increasing public interventions – both for concerns about his welfare and also to protect her reputation – she explored options for written communication that might convince him to stop giving interviews, but that could also set the record straight if he gave them to the media," Knauf said in the statement provided to Associated Newspapers' lawyers. "The Duchess wanted to make sure that if the letter became public it would assist with setting out her perspective on the problems with her father’s behavior. In the messages on 24 August she said she felt 'fantastic' after writing it and added that: 'And if he leaks it then that’s on his conscious but at least the world will know the truth. Words I could never voice publicly.'"

Knauf also claims Meghan and Harry later authorized specific cooperation in December 2018 with the authors of "Finding Freedom," a book about her and Prince Harry's departure from official royal duties. The book was co-authored by Carolyn Durand, a former ABC News producer, and Omid Scobie, currently an ABC News royal contributor.

Knauf cited an email exchange with Prince Harry regarding an upcoming meeting Knauf had with the authors, and provided Harry a list of topics the authors wanted to discuss. He said he expressed to Harry that “being able to say hand on heart that we did not facilitate access will be important” in the email.

According to Knauf, Harry replied, saying: "I totally agree that we have to be able to say we didn’t have anything to do with it. Equally, you giving the right context and background to them would help get some truths out there. The truth is v much needed and would be appreciated, especially around the Markle/wedding stuff but at the same time we can’t put them directly in touch with her friends."

Knauf claims Meghan also provided him with a list of background information and bullet points to discuss with the authors, including her happiness about moving to Windsor and her relationship with her father and half-siblings.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers argued during the original privacy lawsuit case that Meghan was trying to manipulate the narrative around her to be more positive, and that she gave or enabled "them [the authors of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand] to be given a great deal of other information about her personal life, in order to set out her own version of events in a way that is favorable to her."

Meghan's lawyers categorically refuted those claims at the time and Meghan did so again Wednesday in a new response to the Associated Newspapers' appeal.

"It is untrue that my husband and I [or either of us] spoke to the authors for the purposes of the Book. Nor did we meet with them 'in about late 2018,' far less did we do so at any time to discuss 'the ways in which [we] would cooperate in the writing of the Book'(as also alleged. I note that this is effectively confirmed by Mr. Knauf at paragraph 18 of his Witness Statement," she wrote in a 22-page response to Knauf.

Meghan also stated she did not believe the letter was “likely to reach the public domain," but "merely recognized that this was a possibility given the extraordinary level of media attention and unusual lens we were all under."

"To be clear, I did not want any of it to be published, and wanted to ensure that the risk of it being manipulated or misleadingly edited was minimized, were it to be exploited," she said, adding that writing a letter was the only "viable option" for communicating with her father due to the media intrusion into their relationship.

Meghan also said in her response that it was only until Thomas Markle began including the royal family in his media attacks that senior members of the family expressed concern over wanting him to be stopped. She said she was "eager to please" them, and that the situation was putting significant pressure on Harry.

She said she decided to write the letter in accordance with advice she received from two senior family members, who are not named.

A final judgment in the appeal is expected soon.

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