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Judge Throws Out Suit by Ex-US-Hostage

April 18, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal judge sided with the Bush administration Thursday in throwing out a lawsuit by former U.S. hostages who sought $33 billion for being held captive by the Iranian government two decades ago.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan expressed sympathy for the trauma the former hostages have suffered, but said the agreement freeing them in 1981 barred lawsuits.

``Were this court empowered to judge by its sense of justice, the heartbreaking accounts of the emotional and physical toll of those 444 days″ in captivity ``would be more than sufficient justification″ for granting relief, Sullivan wrote in a 98-page opinion.

The State Department intervened in the case late last year, arguing that American credibility would suffer abroad if the government failed to honor its international commitments such as the accord between the U.S. and Iran that freed the hostages.

In court, the former hostages testified about beatings, simulated executions at the hands of their captors and being imprisoned in cold conditions with only minimal clothing, food, water and medical care.

Earlier this year, Sullivan signaled that he might have no choice but to dismiss the lawsuit, and lawyers for the hostages and their families are seeking legislative remedies.

A new law directs the president to establish a compensation program for victims of international terrorism going back more than 21 years.

The government of Iran did not defend itself in the case and Sullivan issued a judgment in favor of the ex-hostages in August. The Bush administration stepped in on the eve of a trial to determine how much money the former hostages were entitled to.

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