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Saddam torture victim awarded $88M
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

An Iraqi man who was tortured in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison during the regime of Saddam Hussein was awarded $88 million in damages Monday by a federal court judge in Pittsburgh.

U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Hardiman set the damages after hearing Abdullah K. Alkhuzai, 33, of Overbrook, testify about his capture, imprisonment and torture after an uprising near Nasiriya in March 1991. Alkhuzai sued the former dictator, now in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location, his deceased sons and eight henchmen.

"I feel really great, I feel the U.S.A. got my justice for me. I feel grateful to the U.S.A. government," Alkhuzai said. "I feel I'm a winner because I'm against these people, Saddam Hussein and his generals.

"In May, Hardiman granted a default judgment in favor of Alkhuzai, because none of the defendants responded to the lawsuit brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act.

"I think the chances of collecting individually against these persons are good," said Alkhuzai's attorney, Regis McClelland. "We will hire a firm in New York that specializes in collecting such judgments." He said the defendants are "multimillionaires, with money in bank accounts throughout the world and possibly in the United States."

However, 17 former American prisoners of war from Operation Desert Storm found that collecting on a court judgment isn't likely.

They won 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 when the U.S. Justice Department successfully argued that the judgment should be blocked so the money could be used to help rebuild Iraq.

Yesterday, McClelland showed an Iraqi video in which Alkhuzai and others were beaten, kicked or shot.

Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid -- alias "Chemical Ali," also a defendant in the lawsuit -- is shown holding a gun to Alkhuzai's head.

"I don't know why he didn't shoot me that day. I thought it was the last day of my life," said Alkhuzai. "Maybe God let me live to tell my story today about the monster Saddam Hussein."

The video was made by Iraqi officials to show Saddam how they were dealing with the Shi'ite Muslims who opposed him, McClelland said.

It was smuggled out of Iraq and broadcast as part of a BBC documentary. Alkhuzai, a permanent U.S. resident since September 1994, testified he was starved, beaten, stabbed and shocked three times a day while held in Abu Ghraib.

He escaped with six others from a house near Nasiriya, when they learned they were carrying their own death warrants and were to be killed the next day.

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