- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

A group of 60 Americans injured in the 1986 Libyan bombing of a Berlin discotheque is pressing the United States to maintain sanctions on Libya until the victims receive a multibillion settlement comparable with one offered in the Lockerbie bombing.

“The victims of a bomb explosion in the Berlin discotheque La Belle suffered the same tragedy as the Pan Am families did,” said attorney Steven Perles in Washington. He, his partner Thomas Faye, and another law firm represent more than 60 U.S. victims, most of whom were servicemen at the time.

Libya recently agreed to pay $2.7 billion — $10 million to families of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland — in a bid to end its pariah status as a terrorist nation.

After the Lockerbie settlement, Libya also agreed to renegotiate an earlier settlement with relatives killed in the 1999 bombing of a French UTA airline over Niger.

In the 1986 bombing, two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed and more than 200 people were injured at the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, a popular site for off-duty U.S. soldiers.

In response, the United States bombed a house in Libya belonging to Moammar Gadhafi. Col. Gadhafi survived, but his 2-year-old adopted daughter died.

“We would like to see the Libyan government engage in the same settlement process as they did in the Pan Am case,” Mr. Perles said.

Although sanctions imposed by the United Nations might be lifted after the settlement of the Lockerbie and the French UTA bombings, Mr. Perles said he believes the U.S. sanctions will remain.

“I do not believe that it would be politically viable for the U.S. to abandon these victims. … They were all American servicemen off-duty. The bombing targeted them, and not the Germans.”

Mr. Faye and Mr. Perles have been litigating the case in U.S. courts since Oct. 26, 2001.

“Libya did not offer anything so far. … I think they wanted to make sure that they could successfully conclude the Pan Am litigation. And they wanted to see if the issue would allow them to not deal with the La Belle case,” Mr. Perles said.

There is a settlement under way in Germany, where the Foreign Ministry has been negotiating with Libyan Ambassador Said A. Muhammad, a friend of the Gadhafi clan, for several months.

According to statements from a group of German victims, the owner of the discotheque and the family of the Turkish woman, who bled to death in the ruins, are seeking $1 million each. The injured Germans are seeking about $500,000.

“We have collected more than $16 million per victim in other cases … A satisfactory settlement in the La Belle case would have to be much closer to that amount than to the amount the Germans are trying to get. Our legal system is very different from the German one,” Mr. Perles said.

“If there is a settlement in Germany it will not affect us. We will either get our own settlement or we will continue the litigation. … Libya will pay. Either now or a much bigger amount in five years,” Mr. Perles said. He pointed out that there are more than $1 billion in Libyan assets blocked by the U.S. Treasury.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide