Iraqi wins judgment against Saddam
By Robert Baird
TRIBUNE-REVIEW Thursday, June 10, 2004 — An Iraqi man who says he was beaten and tortured during the regime of Saddam Hussein has won a judgment in a case filed here against the former dictator and his henchmen.
Collecting a cash award could prove to be a difficult, if not impossible, task. Abdullah K. Alkhuzai, 32, of Overbrook, a permanent U.S. resident since 1994, won a judgment against Saddam and his lieutenants when they failed to show up in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to defend themselves.
Alkhuzai claimed physical and emotional injuries suffered during 30 days of imprisonment in 1991 in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
With Saddam and many of his lieutenants in U.S. custody with their assets frozen, the chances of Alkhuzai actually collecting any money "is another question," said his attorney, Rege McClelland.
"I am fairly confident there are other assets out there that never have been frozen either in this country and abroad that we may be able to force a judgment on," McClelland said.
Alkhuzai's lawsuit, filed before Saddam's Dec. 13 capture, names him and his two deceased sons -- Odai and Qusai -- and eight henchmen, including the former dictator's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali."
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hardiman granted the judgment in Alkhuzai's favor last month, and set a June 21 hearing to determine the damages to be awarded. To be heard in federal court, a lawsuit must seek at least $75,000.
McClelland said 17 former American prisoners of war from Operation Desert Storm received a $1 billion judgment in Washington against Iraq, Saddam and the Iraqi Intelligence Service for what a judge called the "savagery" they suffered.
They collected nothing, however, when the Justice Department successfully argued that the judgment should be blocked so the money could be used to help rebuild Iraq.
Alkhuzai contends in the lawsuit that his family had opposed the Saddam regime, and he was captured during an uprising in Nasiriya in March 1991.
He claimed that he was "electrocuted three times daily," starved, tortured and stabbed in the arm, and that he witnessed the murder of several Iraqis before he fled to Saudi Arabia.
McClelland said a court notice was served on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell because the State Department has custody of the defendants in the lawsuit. "The State Department has no obligation to represent them. They accepted service on their behalf," he said. "I don't anticipate anyone will appear on behalf of the defendants or the country of Iraq."
Attempts to obtain comment from the State Department were unsuccessful.
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