Former US hostages, families seek millions in suits against Iran, Libya

Published June 14th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Two Americans held hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s and the family of a US national killed in captivity there have filed lawsuits seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from Iran and Libya, according to documents seen Wednesday, June 13. 

 

The suits, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, accuse Iran of backing the radical Hizbullah movement, which abducted the three men, Benjamin Weir, Frank Regier and Peter Kilburn, in 1984. 

 

Weir and Regier are seeking $100 million each in compensation from Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security plus unspecified punitive damages. The brother of Kilburn, who was killed by the allegedly Libyan-backed Arab Revolutionary Cells after his abduction by Hizbullah, is seeking $200 million from Iran and its information ministry and Libya and its Jamariyiya Security Organization plus unspecified punitive damages. 

 

The suits were filed under 1996 amendments to the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allow lawsuits against foreign governments if they commit terrorist acts or support perpetrators of terrorist acts that injure or kill US citizens. 

 

Both Iran and Libya are designated as "state sponsors of terrorism" by the US State Department. The department specifically accuses Tehran of supporting Hizbullah which it has designated a "foreign terrorist organization." 

 

The Arab Revolutionary Cells, an underground Palestinian group, is reputedly linked to the Abu Nidal Organization, which is also designated a "foreign terrorist organization" by the department. The department's latest "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, released in April, says Tripoli backed the Abu Nidal group until 1999. 

 

Weir, a Presbyterian pastor who was held for 495 days after being abducted on May 8, 1984 on a Beirut sidewalk, alleges he was kept in "brutal and inhumane" conditions. "The government of Iran promoted and supported hostage-taking that resulted in my being kidnapped," Weir said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. 

 

"That action of the government of Iran caused me and my family severe harm for which the government of Iran is responsible and must provide compensation," said Weir who was released in September 1985. 

 

Regier, who was held for 65 days after being kidnapped on February 10, 1984 near the American University of Beirut where he was chairman of the school's engineering department, also alleges mistreatment by his captors. "Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism must learn through lawsuits like this that acts of terrorism will ultimately be very expensive," said Regier, who was rescued in April 1984. 

 

Blake Kilburn ― the brother of American University of Beirut librarian Peter Kilburn who was abducted near the school on November 30, 1984 ― alleges similar treatment of his brother by the captors. But Kilburn also claims that the Arab Revolutionary Cells then "purchased" his brother from Hizbullah in order to murder him in retaliation for the April 14, 1986 US bombing of Tripoli ordered by former president Ronald Reagan. 

 

Peter Kilburn's body was found with those of two British hostages on a road near Beirut three days after the raid on Tripoli that Reagan ordered after the bombing by alleged Libyan agents of a German nightclub that killed several US servicemen. 

 

"The governments of Iran and Libya must pay for their barbaric and inhumane actions in carrying out the kidnapping and murder of Peter Kilburn," said Blake Kilburn's lawyer, Stuart Newberger. ― (AFP, Washington) 

 

© Agence France Presse 2001

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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