- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

A federal judge has ordered Iran to pay more than $300 million to a Virginia college professor and decorated veteran who was kidnapped and brutally beaten 18 years ago in Beirut.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in Washington said John R. Cronin was entitled to $301.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, citing an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for victims of state-sponsored terrorism.
Evidence presented in the uncontested court case showed that Mr. Cronin, 56, a former U.S. Marine, was abducted and during four days of captivity nearly died from medical complications stemming from war injuries he suffered years earlier.
Court records show Mr. Cronin served two tours in Vietnam, during which he was wounded in the abdomen by a North Vietnamese soldier when his unit was ambushed in an area outside Da Nang. Because of his injuries, he had to undergo "an end-to-end ileostomy, where they sewed the intestine back together again because quite a bit of it had been removed."
Although he was not required to return to combat, the records said, he voluntarily went back to Vietnam for a second tour after recovering from his injuries. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1969, having been awarded two Purple Hearts for bravery and several other military awards.
As a result of the gunshot wound to his abdomen, Mr. Cronin suffers from recurring bouts of small-bowel obstruction, caused by scar tissue.
Mr. Cronin was in a Beirut hospital being treated for the obstruction when gunmen burst into the emergency room, took him prisoner and accused him of spying for Israel. Records showed he was punched repeatedly in the abdomen as his abductors transported him to a prison.
Days later, as Mr. Cronin was near death, the records show, his abductors returned him to the hospital.
"The court has no difficulty concluding that Amal, Islamic Amal and Hezbollah carried out these depraved acts," Judge Lamberth said in his ruling, handed down late Thursday. He said the evidence proved Iran provided support to the groups in war-torn Lebanon of the 1980s.
After leaving the Marines, Mr. Cronin received a bachelor's degree in political science from The Citadel, a master's degree in Middle East studies from the American University in Beirut and a Ph.D. in Middle East politics from the University of London.
During the course of his studies, he spent significant time living in the Middle East, including Cairo and Beirut. Fluent in Arabic, he is considered an expert in Middle East affairs and currently teaches comparative politics and Middle East affairs at Strayer University in Virginia.
The court records show that, while a graduate student at the American University in Beirut, Mr. Cronin felt a "twinge" in his upper abdomen on Nov. 16, 1984, which he suspected to be the onset of a bowel obstruction. An hour later, when the pain intensified, he walked about four blocks to the university's Medical Center.
While a physician was examining him, four armed men burst into the emergency room and placed a pistol under his ear and said in Arabic "Get up, you are coming with us," the records show. Mr. Cronin said the doctor and nurse pleaded with the other three men, who were carrying AK-47 assault rifles, not to take him because his condition was "very serious," but they said he was an Israeli spy and was going with them.
Mr. Cronin recognized two of the abductors as members of Hezbollah because of the distinctive red headbands they were wearing, and knew that the other two men were members of Islamic Amal because of the distinctive leather jackets that they were wearing.
The men forced Mr. Cronin into the back seat of a car, accused him of being an Israeli spy and said they were going to put him on trial for espionage, the records show. After he denied being a spy, one of his abductors ordered him to sit on his hands and then began punching him in the abdomen "as hard as he could."
The records show that Mr. Cronin was threatened with death, hit on the side of his head with the butt of one of the AK-47s, and later taken to a small cell, where he was beaten repeatedly. After three days, his abductors called in a doctor because of his obvious pain, but the doctor could not help him.
The next day, Mr. Cronin was taken back to the university hospital, the records show.
The defendants failed to appear in court and Judge Lamberth entered a default against them.

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