Court awards millions to PKK victims

Dec. 18, 2012 at 12:49 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A U.S. court found the Syrian government responsible for aiding the Kurdish Workers' Party, which abducted a group of Americans in 1991.

The Washington court Monday awarded the families of two of the kidnap victims $38 million in compensatory damages and levied $300 million in punitive damages against the Syrian government, a statement issued by the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center said.

The Israeli firm and U.S. attorney Robert Tolchin represented two families of U.S. citizens kidnapped in 1991 by the Kurdish Workers' Party, a U.S.-designated terror group known by its Kurdish language initials PKK.

The two were members of a group of U.S. archaeologists who were in Turkey searching for remains of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat when they were captured. They were held for 21 days before they escaped.

Marvin Wilson, one of the kidnapped Americans, and the family of the deceased Ronald Wyatt alleged Damascus allowed the PKK to operate from Syrian territory and provided the group with financial support and training.

The families sought civil action for compensation and punitive damages from Syria, the Israeli law firm said.

"The news we received today of a successful ruling against Syria for their support of the PKK during the time of our 1991 kidnapping in Turkey was extremely exciting. After 12 years of anticipating that justice would be served, I hope this ruling will serve notice and be a deterrent to others that there is a penalty for complicity in taking American citizens as hostages," Wilson said.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Israeli firm, called the ruling "groundbreaking."

"Hopefully with this judgment Syria will come to realize that there are financial consequences for its actions, while at the same time bringing some measure of comfort to the Wyatt and Wilson families for their ordeal," Tolchin said.

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