WASHINGTON (CN) – Victims of the 1996 Iran-sponsored terrorist bombing at a U.S. Air Force base in Saudi Arabia can collect on their judgment from Sprint, which owes money to Iran’s state-owned telecommunications company, a federal judge ruled.
Survivors and the families of victims won a $336 million judgment in court against Iran for sponsoring the Hezbollah attack, which killed 19 military personnel and wounded more than 100.
“Though providing a workable framework in theory, the past decade of litigation under the act has proved, for victims of state-sponsored terrorism, to be a journey down a never-ending road littered with barriers and often obstructed entirely,” U.S. Chief District Judge Royce Lamberth explained.
In an attempt to recoup damages from Iran, the plaintiffs issued several writs to telecommunications companies, like Sprint, that do business with the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TIC).
Sprint argued that the plaintiffs had not proven that TIC was an instrument of Iran and subsequently sought to interplead TIC.
Judge Lamberth denied Sprint’s request and ordered it to turn over the funds it owes to the company.
“The court would like to conclude by noting that this decision represents renewed hope for long-suffering victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Would like to. But the bleak reality is that today’s decision comes after more than a year of litigation and results in a turnover of funds amounting to less than one-tenth of one-percent of what plaintiffs are entitled to in these consolidated cases,” according to the 27-page decision. “And this infinitesimal sum is dwarfed by even greater magnitudes when compared to the endless agony and suffering befalling these victims. A step in the right direction, to be sure. But a very small one.”
Sprint noted in a proposed complaint that it presently owes TIC $613,587.38, leaving a robust portion of the $336 million judgment unpaid.
The 1996 bombing involved a tanker truck that blew up alongside a fence surrounding the Khobar Towers complex, a residential facility housing U.S. Air Force personnel in Saudi Arabia. The blast was felt up to 20 miles away and was, at the time, the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded on Earth. Though the attack was carried out by Hezbollah, a federal court found that “the Khobar Towers bombing was planned, funded and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”