- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NORFOLK — A federal judge yesterday rejected the Sudanese government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by the families of the 17 sailors killed in the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. Doumar also said he was inclined to apply the Death on the High Seas Act to the lawsuit, which could reduce potential damages from $105 million to between $25 million and $35 million.

The act limits compensation to economic losses, said Andrew C. Hall, an attorney for the families. The higher figure sought by the families, who sued for wrongful death, includes damages for the pain and suffering of the 59 spouses, parents and children of the bombing victims.

“The amount of money that’s going to be awarded has never really been the issue,” Mr. Hall said after yesterday’s pretrial hearing. “They’d trade all the money in the world for their sailors back.”

The lawsuit, set for trial March 13, asserts that Sudan’s government provided financial and training support to al Qaeda, including the militants who planned the attack on the Norfolk-based Navy destroyer in the Aden, Yemen, harbor on Oct. 12, 2000.

Judge Doumar had to consider what laws apply from which country: the United States, Sudan or Yemen. He said he thought U.S. law applies because a U.S. ship was attacked.

“It does appear that the Death on the High Seas Act is an exclusive remedy,” Judge Doumar said without offering details.

Sudan’s request to dismiss was based in part on the argument that the lawsuit was filed after the act’s three-year statute of limitations. Mr. Hall said outside court that the statute of limitations is 10 years if a foreign sovereign is involved.

An attorney representing Sudan attended the hearing but made no statements. When Judge Doumar asked him whether Sudan objected to any of the plaintiffs’ 183 trial exhibits, attorney Carl D. Gray reminded the judge that “Sudan has elected not to take any position on the merits.”

“You can play games somewhere else, Mr. Gray,” Judge Doumar snapped.

Mr. Hall said he expects the trial to last two to three days, with testimony by six family members and one or two experts. Attorneys also will give the judge depositions by about 50 people, including other family members and R. James Woolsey, CIA director under President Clinton.

According to a final pretrial order the judge signed yesterday, the families’ attorneys contend that:

• The Cole attack could not have occurred without Sudan’s support.

• Yemeni operatives who bombed the Cole were trained in Sudan, then sent to Yemen to await instructions to carry out the attack.

• Sudan has supported and given safe haven to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network since 1991.

• Bin Laden and Sudan’s government-owned businesses provided cover for the procurement of explosives, weapons and chemicals.

• Al Qaeda used accounts in banks owned by Sudan to fund terrorist operations.

• Sudan issued passports and diplomatic credentials to al Qaeda members and gave al Qaeda diplomatic pouches to ship explosives and weapons internationally without being searched.

• Sudan’s embassy in New York gave logistical assistance to the bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993.

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