The Palestinian branded a terrorist in the Sacha Baron Cohen film Bruno is a Christian activist who works for a charity in the territory, it has emerged. Ayman Abu Aita, 44, who lives near Bethlehem, is part of the Holy Land trust which is a not-for-profit organisation that works on community building in Palestine.
He is furious at being duped by Baron Cohen's character - an outrageous Austrian fashionista who describes him as a 'terrorist group leader' - and plans to sue. In his first public comments about the film, he said: 'How could he say this about me? He lied from the beginning and he is still lying now.
'Bruno can make a joke about anything he wants, but this is not a joke. Calling me a terrorist is not funny - it is lying.' Mr Abu Aita was identified in the film as the leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank. But he insists he is no longer involved with the group, and is only a Christian Fatah representative for the Fatah movement's political wing.
'My file is clear with the Americans. I was in the States twice and I travel all the time. I am a non-violent activist and I am not ashamed of that,' he told the Guardian. A friend who works for the Palestinian news agency PNN set up the interview after Bruno's producer rang up asking to talk to a Palestinian campaigner.
Mr Abu Aita says he thought it was for a documentary to illustrate life in the Palestinian territories and agreed, meeting 'Bruno' in a hotel in a village near Bethlehem.
They talked about that for two hours before Baron Cohen veered off the topic and started asking questions about Osama bin Laden.
Then Baron Cohen asked to be kidnapped, declaring: 'I want to be famous. I want the best guys in the business to kidnap me. Al-Qaeda is so 2001.'
Before Mr Abu Aita can respond, Brüno suggests he remove his moustache 'ecause your king Osama looks like a kind of dirty wizard or homeless Santa.'
Mr Abu Aita says his response was edited out. 'I was angered by the question. I said, first of all I'm not a terrorist. Second, you are a guest here so I must take care of you until you leave my country,' he said.
He is standing in the Palestinian elections next January and claims other candidates are using the interview to discredit him.
'They ask how I could allow myself to be laughed at in this way, how I could agree to it. They are angry that I have embarrassed the Palestinian people, because we are being presented in this false, disgusting way.'
When Baron Cohen went on the David Letterman show in the U.S. to promote the film, he said finding a 'terrorist' to interview had taken months and help from a CIA source.
He called the Martyrs Brigade 'the number one suicide bombers out there' and the two other men from the Holy Land trust at the meeting bodyguards for 'the terrorist'. Mr Abu Aita wants to sue for defamation and claims he did not sign any release forms for the footage. A spokesman for Baron Cohen refused to comment to the Guardian.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank.
It released a statement earlier this week saying it was 'very upset' at how it has been portrayed in the film.
The group is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings and shootings and has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States
In the film, Baron Cohen's Austrian character, an outrageous gay fashionista, attempts to get himself kidnapped during a meeting with Ayman Abu Aita, who is identified in the film as the leader of the Martyrs' Brigades.
Baron Cohen is reported to have received death threats in America and Kazakhstan after his previous box office hit, Borat.