Family of US Priest Taken Hostage in Beirut Wins Judgment Against Iran
A federal district judge in Washington has ruled that Iran should pay $314.6 million to the family of the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest held hostage in Lebanon by Islamic radicals for nearly 19 months in the 1980s.
In a decision issued late Thursday, the judge, Royce C. Lamberth, was quoted by the New York Times as ruling that Father Jenco and his six brothers and sisters had suffered because of "the depraved and uncivilized conduct of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Judge Lamberth said Iran financed and controlled Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance group that allegedly kidnapped Father Jenco.
The suit was filed more than 16 years after the release of Jenco, who had been held by nearly 19 months, and five years after he died of cancer in Illinois at age 61.
The family accused Tehran of “financing and directing the captors.”
However, the paper said in a previous report that because of arguments advanced by lawyers of the family of the late Roman Catholic priest, the court was facing a surprising question: Who should the courts consider to be the "family" of a Roman Catholic priest?
To tally damages, the Jenco family's lawyers urged the judge to consider the emotional ties that bound nieces and nephews to Father Jenco, who as a Catholic priest did not have children of his own.
"Aren't the children of a Catholic priest's brothers and sisters his alter-ego children?" one of the lawyers, Steven R. Perles, asked in an interview.
The family's lawyers argued that because Father Jenco was a Catholic priest, and therefore did not have children of his own, his 22 nieces and nephews should be counted as children for the purpose of computing damages.
The judge rejected the claim. Had he agreed, the damages could have been millions of dollars more, said the report.
The decision was similar to rulings in other cases in recent years holding Iran liable for kidnappings and killings.
Iran never responded to the suit. Under a federal law passed last year dealing with Iran and other countries deemed sponsors of terrorism, the US Treasury is to pay a part of court judgments to victims of terrorism and charge those payments against a fund of impounded assets.
The priest was held in Beirut with others, including Terry Anderson, Rev. Ben Weir, and Thomas Sutherland. Father Jenco's 564 days in captivity, which started in 1985, are told in his book Bound to Forgive.
His release from captivity, along with many of his fellow hostages, was allegedly orchestrated by the Iran/Contra, arms-for-hostages affair – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)