(CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Friday ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay nearly $92 million to victims of the 1983 suicide bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
Carried out by members of Hezbollah, the Beirut bombing killed 241 servicemen and injured many others, making it the deadliest state-sponsored terrorist attack until Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the bombing, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) directed the Iranian ambassador to Syria to contact the leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal and “instruct him to have his group instigate attacks against the multinational coalition in Lebanon and ‘to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines,'” a widely renowned expert on Iranian affairs testified at trial.
On the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, Hezbollah members ambushed a water delivery truck before it arrived at the barracks. A suicide bomber then drove a 19-ton truck loaded with explosives and disguised to look like the water truck into the compound and detonated, causing the largest non-nuclear explosion ever detonated.
After the explosion, Marines “ran to the rubble and started searching for survivors among the loose hands, heads, legs, arms, and torsos that littered the rubble-strewn ground,” Eric Hammel wrote in “The Root: The Marines in Beirut, August 1982 – February 1984.”
Survivors and relatives of those killed or injured in the bombing sued Iran under a terrorism exception to the principle of sovereign immunity.
Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth found Iran and its intelligence agency liable for the terrorist attack in 2007, but the laws at the time did not allow for punitive damages.
Congress responded by tweaking the terrorism exception to allow victims to seek punitive damages against a foreign nation accused of sponsoring terrorism.
The plaintiffs in the Beirut bombing case filed a new claim, this time to retroactively take advantage of the modified laws.
Chief Judge Lamberth ruled that their claims fell under the new terrorism exception to sovereign immunity and were filed “well within” the 10-year statute of limitations.
“Iran and MOIS are responsible for the deaths and injuries of hundreds of American servicemen; are liable for physical, emotional, and pecuniary injuries suffered as a result; and deserve to be punished to the fullest legal extent possible,” Lamberth wrote.
He ordered Iran to pay the survivors and their relatives a total of more than $30.6 million, plus almost $61.3 million in punitive damages to the two plaintiffs who survived the bombing.
“The Court sincerely hopes that the compensatory damages awarded today help to alleviate plaintiffs’ and intervenors’ injuries, and that the punitive damages also awarded inspire Iran to adhere to its professed opposition to terrorism,” Lamberth wrote.