French group: Relatives of American passengers who died on 1989 flight to sue Libya
Relatives of United States passengers killed when a bomb ripped apart a plane flying over west Africa in 1989 have started a lawsuit in Washington against both Libya and its leader, Colonel Moamer Qadhafi, suspected of being behind the attack, a French legal aid association said Wednesday, according to AFP.
"The families of seven Americans killed in the attack perpetrated on September 19, 1989 against the DC-10 of the UTA airline have today started a lawsuit in the Federal Court in Washington against Libya and its leader, Colonel Moamer Qadhafi," the group, SOS-Attacks, said in a statement.
All 170 people on the French flight from Brazzaville to the French capital died in the bombing. Amongst the seven Americans on board was the wife of the US ambassador to Chad.
SOS-Attacks said it had handed over to the relatives computer disks containing evidence presented in a 1999 French trial that resulted in the conviction in absentia of six Libyans - including Qadhafi's brother-in-law - to life terms in jail.
That trial was the result of a ten-year investigation started by French relatives of victims on the flight, which was operated by the French airline UTA.
A French appeals court in October 2000, in addition, upheld a ruling that Qadhafi himself had no immunity from prosecution in the case, provoking protests in Tripoli and straining French-Libyan ties.
A subsequent verdict by France's highest court, in March 2001, overturned that decision, saying it was against "international custom" to try a head of state "no matter how serious the charge".
SOS-Attacks said the US relatives were basing their suit against Qadhafi on a 1996 amendment passed by the US Congress that lifted the immunity from prosecution of heads of state suspected of committing or helping "terrorist acts" that caused the deaths of US citizens.
Libya has never admitted to being behind the bombing, however in 1999 it paid about 30 million dollars to the French families of those killed.
The convicted Libyans, all suspected of being members of its secret service, have never been handed over. Abdullah Senoussi, Qhadafi's brother-in-law, was reportedly the deputy head of Libya's security services at the time. (Albawaba.com)
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