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In a case pitting the Bush administration against former U.S. hostages, a federal judge on Thursday reluctantly threw out the ex-hostages’ lawsuit against Iran. Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said they were barred from collecting damages for trauma they suffered two decades ago. “This court has no choice but to … dismiss this case,” Sullivan said, because the U.S. government agreed in 1980 to bar lawsuits as a condition for the release of the 52 Americans. They spent 444 days in captivity when the Iranian government took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. “Were this court empowered to judge by its sense of justice, the heartbreaking accounts of the emotional and physical toll … would be more than sufficient justification” for granting relief, Sullivan wrote in a 98-page opinion. The State Department intervened in the case late last year. It argued that American credibility would suffer abroad if the government failed to honor its international commitments, such as the Algiers Accords between the United States and Iran that freed the hostages. The hostages and their families sought $33 billion in the lawsuit filed against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its ministry of foreign affairs. The judge criticized Congress for not acting clearly on behalf of the hostages, an assertion that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, disputed. “The Congress twice in the last six months has enacted laws to clarify the right of Iranian hostages to sue and collect damages for the pain and suffering,” said Harkin. “This decision will only add to that pain and suffering.” In court, the former hostages testified about beatings, simulated executions at the hands of their captors and imprisonment in cold conditions with only minimal clothing, food, water and medical care. “Both Congress and the President have expressed their support for these plaintiffs’ quest for justice, while failing to act definitively to enable these former hostages to fulfill that quest,” wrote the judge. “If the political consequences of overturning the Algiers Accords are too great, so be it,” the judge added. Harkin said he will continue efforts on behalf of the hostages so that they have their day in court and receive restitution. Earlier this year, Sullivan signaled that he might have no choice but to dismiss the lawsuit, and lawyers for the hostages and their families continue to seek legislative remedies. The government of Iran did not defend itself in the case, and Sullivan issued a judgment in favor of the ex-hostages in August. The Bush administration stepped in on the eve of a trial to determine how much money the former hostages were entitled to. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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