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Armed Hezbollah fighters. 1996. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Raja News. (CCA-BY-4.0)

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay $104.7 million to victims of a 1996 truck bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell rendered a default judgment against Iran and its Revolutionary Guard, representatives for neither of which attended the proceedings or attempted to defend themselves from the plaintiffs’ claims.

Howell found the nation and its military to be at least partially responsible for the attack, which, writes the New York Times, ‘sheared off the front of the Khobar Towers complex.’

The judgment allows 15 U.S. military servicemembers to recover damages for assault, battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. An additional 24 relatives of veterans and the deceased could submit claims on the grounds of emotional distress, having suffered second-hand.

However, Howell barred a request for punitive damages, saying that federal law doesn’t allow for their application in cases predating 2008.

“The plaintiffs are very pleased with the decision, and look forward to pursuing collections,” said attorney Paul Gaston, who represented the plaintiffs. “Having the court ruling gives them some measure of justice.”

The Times notes that, in June 2001, thirteen members of Hezbollah were indicted for their alleged roles in the attack. Hezbollah is a reactionary political party and militant group based in Lebanon. It’s engaged in cross-border conflict with Israel and interfered with the Syrian Civil War.

Shi’ite in its composition, Hezbollah was founded and funded by Iran; its military wing received training and money from the latter’s Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are accused of complicity in the attack, having provided funds and training to Hezbollah members. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Khamanei.ir. (CCA-BY-4.0)

What remains to be seen is how the plaintiffs might recover any of the damages demanded by Howell.

Judge Howell’s judgment isn’t the first time American courts have sought to hold Tehran responsible for the Khobar attacks. In December 2006, another federal judge ordered Iran to pay $254.4 million ‘to family members and the estates of 17 Americans who died in the attack.’ That judgment, like Howell’s, was not contested.

That ruling, wrote the Associated Press shortly after its announcement, allowed victims’ families to receive compensation from seized Iranian assets.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s 2006 ruling likely provided some precedent for Howell’s, as Lamberth was the first to claim that bombing was carried out by an Iranian proxy.

“The defendants also provided money, training and travel documents to Saudi Hezbollah members in order to facilitate the attacks,” wrote Lamberth in his ruling. “Moreover, the gravity and nature of the attack demonstrate the defendants’ unlawful intent to inflict severe emotional distress upon the American servicemen as well as their close relatives.”

In total, the bombing killed 19 American servicemen and a Saudi national; another 498 bystanders and residents were injured in the blast and subsequent collapses.

Sources

Iran Ordered to Pay $104.7 Million Over 1996 Truck Bomb Attack: U.S. Judge

U.S. Judge: Iran Owes $254m to Victims of 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing

US judge orders Iran to pay $105m over 1996 Khobar Towers blast1

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