- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Some of the former hostages seeking damages for financial and emotional injuries were in U.S. District Court yesterday, as their trial against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein got under way.
The 150 American victims, being represented by lawyers Michael D. Lieder and Daniel Wolf of Sprenger & Lang, have no courtroom opposition because Iraq has chosen not to appear. Even so, the case will not be open-and-shut because District Court Judge James P. Jackson will hear testimony from victims and expert witnesses for four days before deciding on a formula for damages.
"We have not come up with an exact dollar amount based on our formula, but we are expecting something in the high eight figures," Mr. Lieder said.
Even if the plaintiffs are awarded damages, there is no guarantee they will be able to collect.
In 1996, Congress passed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, allowing victims of terrorism to sue countries deemed by the U.S. State Department as supporters of terrorists. That superseded the long-standing policy of sovereign immunity for countries against individual lawsuits. Last year, Congress amended that act, allowing the use of frozen assets to enforce such judgments.
Some hostages already have received compensation under the Sovereign Immunities Act. Last year Terry Anderson, former Beirut bureau chief for the Associated Press, and Thomas Sutherland, a former professor at American University of Beirut, were awarded $41 million and $53 million, respectively, after they filed separate lawsuits against Iran for their six-year imprisonment in Lebanon.
Those funds came from the U.S. Treasury, and Iran has yet to pay a cent in return, partly because the Iranians deny involvement, and because they did not participate in the lawsuit much like Iraq is doing in the current case. There are now concerns the United States has opened a Pandora's box that could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
But Mr. Wolf, lead attorney in the case, said all past cases between Iran and terrorist victims are unrelated to the case against Saddam. Mr. Wolf was instrumental in getting the Sovereign Immunities Act passed after the Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case involving his client, Scott Nelson, against Saudi Arabia. Mr. Nelson and several other Americans were held hostage and tortured by the Saudi government during the late 1980s.
"The victims I am representing [now] are not seeking or advocating claims from U.S. Treasury dollars, but from the reported $2 billion in frozen Iraqi assets," Mr. Wolf said.
"The reason why the assets were frozen in the first place was because of Iraq's human-shield policy during the war, using American citizens in an attempt to compel the U.S. not to interfere with the Kuwaiti takeover."
None of the hostages in Iraq was killed during their detainment, but they were mistreated. Many witnessed the bombings and deaths of people around them firsthand, and two women were sexually assaulted, Mr. Lieder said.
"Some of the victims have been able to move on with their lives but others are still suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.
Jack Frazier, a former Marine who at the time of the invasion was employed by the Bechtel Corp. as a project superintendent in Iraq, was confined to a bedroom with 50 other Americans. He was released after 21/2 months, but he lost the use of his hands and is unable to walk without assistance. His doctors have given him 18 months to live.
"Jack Frazier, an insulin-dependent diabetic is dying due to tissue damage caused by months without medication," Mr. Lieder said.

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