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Federal judge orders Sudan funds unfrozen to compensate USS Cole victims' families

[JURIST] A lawyer for the relatives of 17 sailors killed in the 2000 al Qaeda attack [US DOD inquiry report] on the USS Cole [official website; JURIST news archive] said Tuesday that the families will receive compensation from the Sudan government after a judge for the US District Court of the Southern District of New York [official website] ordered last week that banks release $13.4 million in previously blocked funds. The Terrorism Recovery Insurance Act of 2002 [text, PDF] allows judges to unblock funds where judgments have been rendered against terrorist states. Sudan denies any involvement in the bombing. Family members will receive pecuniary damages under the Death on the High Seas Act [46 USC § 30302 text], but the act does not allow them to recover punitive damages. The lawyer for the families said each family will receive between $200,000 and $1.2 million [AP report]. The families also plan to seek punitive damages [JURIST report] of up to $50 million under the Justice for State Sponsored Terrorism Act [text] passed last year according to their lawyer.

In 2007, the government of Sudan announced plans to appeal the original judgment [JURIST reports] of nearly $8 million, arguing that as a sovereign nation it was not subject to US Courts and denying any role in the bombing. A judge for the US Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] found Sudan liable in 2007 for the bombing after previously rejecting a motion by Sudan to dismiss the suit [JURIST reports]. The court originally allowed the suit [JURIST report] in 2005.

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