U.S. families win $338 million lawsuit against Syria

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Two families who were in Turkey seeking the remains of Noah’s Ark when they were taken hostage for 21 days were awarded $338 million in their lawsuit against Syria.

Chief United States District Court Judge Royce Lamberth for Washington D.C. ruled that the government of Syria was responsible for providing the necessary materials and resources to the PKK – Kurdish Workers Party, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. The two families were represented by an Israeli-based legal center Shurat HaDin.

The judge ruled that Syria was “vicariously liable for the PKK’s 1991 kidnapping” of the American biblical archeologists.

According to the Dec. 19 court ruling, “The brutal character of the kidnapping in this case, the significant harm it caused both the hostage plaintiffs and their families, along with Syria’s demonstrated and well-known policy to encourage terrorism all merit an award of punitive damages.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin law center, called the ruling "groundbreaking" and noted it “points to an underlying fact: the free world will no longer stand idle while international crimes are committed and it will fight against those rogue regimes which support these heinous acts. Above all, the court found that this kidnapping was brutal and heinous, and involved threats of execution, torture, as well as marches through mountains and dense forests. It is therefore fitting that compensation should be in the millions not in the tens of thousands. These days Syria continues to commit crimes against those who oppose the regime, and Syria will pay.”

Attorneys Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv and Robert Tolchin of New York represented the families.

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