- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

A federal judge in New York yesterday awarded damages against the government of Iraq after ruling that the families of two victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks had shown “albeit barely” that Iraq provided material support to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.Judge Harold Baer ruled that the two families were entitled to $104 million compensation from Iraq, bin Laden, al Qaeda and Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.He had entered a default judgment against these defendants on Dec. 23, 2002, after they failed to show up to contest the case.But he dismissed the families’ suit against deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on the basis that as head of state he enjoyed absolute immunity.Lawyers for the two families said they would attempt to recover the money from the $1.7 billion in Iraqi assets frozen in the United States. “Although the president has recently indicated he’s earmarked that to help rebuild Iraq, he did set aside $300 million to pay any judgments outstanding against the old government there,” attorney Slade McLaughlin told United Press International.He said that $118 million of that had been paid out recently to the so-called “human shields” from the 1991 Gulf war, and that he hoped to be able to secure the whole $104 million for his clients from the remainder.Judge Baer, in a written decision released yesterday, said that the standard of proof required for the case was much lower than in a normal civil action, because the defendants did not contest the case.Even so, he said that the families had only scraped over the evidential bar, referred to in a quote of the relevant legislation as “evidence satisfactory to the court.”“Plaintiffs have shown, albeit barely, ‘by evidence satisfactory to the court’ that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al-Qaida.”Judge Baer said that most of the evidence the families had tried to introduce, such as TV interviews with unidentified Iraqi defectors, was “classically hearsay” or even “multiple hearsay.” He said his decision was based only on the opinion testimony of the families’ two expert witnesses, former CIA Director James Woolsey Jr. and author Laurie Mylroie.

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