WASHINGTON — A federal judge has awarded $2.16 billion to victims of the 1983 suicide truck-bombing of U.S. Marines in Beirut, his third award in two weeks to plaintiffs who had sued Iran over the attack.
The money will be difficult to collect, but the victims hope to obtain it from Iranian assets frozen in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth awarded the money Friday to estates of dead Marines and to injured Marines and their relatives. Two days ago, he awarded $44.6 million to two servicemen who were injured and their family members. And last week, he awarded $33.3 million to family members of two injured servicemen.
Iran has been blamed for supporting the militant group Hezbollah, which carried out the bombing.
In Friday’s ruling, Lamberth awarded $487 million in compensatory damages and $1.67 billion in punitive damages to about 180 victims and estates.
A lawyer for the victims, Thomas Fortune Fay, said that he has attached nearly $2 billion in Iranian assets in a Citibank account in New York, which Iran’s central bank is fighting. Including Friday’s ruling, Lambert has awarded more than $7 billion to victims of the 1983 attack from Iran, and Fay has represented nearly all of them. He said that to date, none of his clients have received money from the awards. Fay said that the victims have agreed to share whatever they get proportionately.
In a 2009 opinion, Lamberth urged the president and Congress to consider a terrorism claims settlement commission that would give federal compensation to the victims and suggest a settlement plan with Iran in case the two nations ever resume relations. There has been no action on that.
A message left with the Iranian Embassy to the United Nations was not returned Friday.
In another ruling Friday, Lamberth awarded $315 million from Sudan to sailors who were injured in the USS Cole attack in 2000 and to some of their spouses. The judge wrote that “Sudan’s support of al-Qaida has a ‘reasonable connection'” to damages suffered by the sailors. A message left at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.
The USS Cole attack left 17 sailors dead.