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Federal judge rules Sudan liable in USS Cole bombing

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday held Sudan liable in the 2000 al-Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole [Wikipedia backgrounder; US DOD inquiry report; JURIST news archive], and moved the civil trial of a suit brought by families of seventeen US sailors killed in the bombing to the damages phase. AP quoted US District Judge Robert Doumar of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] as saying: "There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan." Doumar indicated he would publish a formal ruling at a later date, and requested financial information from the plaintiffs to use in the damages determination. AP has more.

The civil trial began on Tuesday [JURIST report] with the plaintiffs offering testimony from four terrorism experts that al-Qaeda could not have accomplished the bombings had not Sudan provided them with money, training areas, and false documentation. The plaintiffs seek $105 million in damages from Sudan for providing material support to terrorists. Doumar ruled prior to the start of trial that the federal Death on the High Seas Act [text] would likely apply, limiting total recovery for a single act to $35 million.

Last month, Doumar denied a motion by Sudan to dismiss the suit [JURIST report] based on the complaint's failure to connect Sudan with al-Qaeda. An earlier motion to dismiss because the statutory limitations had passed was also dismissed. Because the United States has listed Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism since 1993, Sudan cannot claim sovereign immunity [Cornell Law School backgrounder].

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