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US top court backs Sudan over USS Cole bombing lawsuit case

Posted by: Ghebrengus Mesmer

Date: Thursday, 28 March 2019

Court says American sailors injured in the 2000 al-Qaeda bombing cannot collect $314.7m damages from Sudan government.

The Supreme Court in the United States prevented American sailors injured in the deadly 2000 al-Qaeda bombing of the navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting $314.7m in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.

In a 8-1 ruling, the justices on Tuesday overturned a lower court's decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets.

The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to al-Qaeda for the attack in Yemen.

Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump's administration in the case.

In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of US law because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the African country's embassy in Washington rather than to its minister of foreign affairs in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

"Sudan is pleased with the decision," Christopher Curran, who represented Sudan's government in the case, said. "No one disputes that the sailors on the Cole were the victims of a brutal terrorist attack. But Sudan vehemently disputes any culpability in that attack, and is determined to clear its name."

Kannon Shanmugam, a lawyer for the sailors, expressed disappointment. "The fight for justice for the Cole victims and their families continues," Shanmugam said.

A lower court had levied damages by default because Sudan did not defend itself against allegations that it had given support to the armed group.

The October 12, 2000 attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the navy-guided missile destroyer as it was refuelling in the southern port of Aden  in Yemen, blasting a gaping hole in its hull.

The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.

Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued Sudan's government in 2010 in Washington.

At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan's embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a US law governing when foreign governments may be sued in US courts.

Writing for the court's majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that other countries' foreign ministers must be reached where they normally work, "not a far flung outpost that the minister may at most occasionally visit"                                                                             
SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

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