Thursday, October 13, 2005

U.S. judge awards hostage's family $91M

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:



PHILADELPHIA -- Relatives of a former U.S. hostage held in Lebanon for more than five years were awarded $91 million by a U.S. judge for emotional distress in a lawsuit filed against Iran.

The family of Joseph Cicippio expects to recover the award from the U.S. Treasury, as Cicippio and other former U.S. hostages have done, lawyer James J. Oliver said. The government retains the right to pursue the funds from frozen Iranian assets. "I would gladly return to the way my family was before my father was taken, instead of going through all the trauma we went through," son David Cicippio, 45, said Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. issued a default judgment Oct. 7 that awarded $6.5 million to each of Cicippio's 14 children and siblings.

Iran did not respond to the lawsuit, the latest against the Islamic republic for state-sponsored terrorist acts involving U.S. citizens.

Terry Anderson, former chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, collected about $26 million for his nearly seven years in captivity. Cicippio and his wife, Elham, received $30 million as part of a joint 1998 judgment that awarded $68 million to three hostages.

The lawsuits rely on a 1996 U.S. law that allows Americans to sue nations that the State Department lists as sponsors of terrorism. In 2001, an appeals court ruled that first-degree kin can also sue under the act for duress and loss of companionship, lawyer Thomas Fortune Fay said.

Joseph Cicippio Sr., a Norristown native who worked as a controller for American University in Lebanon, was kidnapped Sept. 12, 1986 and held until his release on Dec. 2, 1991. His captors had ties to Hezbollah, the paramilitary group financed and controlled by Iran, U.S. courts have found.

Family members said they put their lives on hold while Cicippio was held hostage, gathering in Norristown when he was paraded on TV and campaigning tirelessly for his release.

Joseph Cicippio, who lives in the Washington area, did not return a telephone message sent through his family from The Associated Press.

Describing the impact of Cicippio's kidnapping on his family, his son David said: "You felt it from the time you woke up in the morning - you saw it on the news, you saw it on the street with people talking to you, it was the last thing you thought of before you went to bed."


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