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Ex-Hostages in Iraq Sue for Funds

September 24, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Eleven Americans held hostage by Iraq before the Gulf War filed a lawsuit seeking to release Iraqi funds from U.S. bank accounts to pay millions of dollars a court decided is owed to the ``human shields.″

The lawsuit was filed Monday against Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

The plaintiffs are seeking the money to pay a December 2001 judgment by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in Washington awarding them damages ranging from $136,000 to $1.74 million. Money in the frozen bank accounts has grown to $9.4 million with interest.

In December 1999, the plaintiffs sued Iraq and Saddam Hussein, saying Americans were owed damages for being held several weeks or months by Iraqi security forces as ``human shields″ to prevent air attacks.

Hostages taken into custody after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, were released by the following December.

Rob Nichols, a Treasury Department spokesman, said the department had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for J.P. Morgan Chase, declined to comment.

There is precedent for collecting frozen assets in such cases.

More than $150 million in frozen assets of Iran have been claimed by eight American terror victims or their families since passage of a 1996 law that permitted lawsuits against countries identified by the State Department as sponsors of international terrorism.

Former Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson, who was held captive in Lebanon for nearly seven years, secured a judgment against Iran and collected $26.2 million in frozen assets.

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