Number 216 | December 21, 2012
On 17 December, the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. held that Syria was vicariously liable for the 1991 kidnapping of a group of American biblical archeologists by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Turkey and the European Union.
In July 2001, Marvin Wilson and the family of the deceased Ronald Wyatt brought a lawsuit against Syria, alleging that Damascus had allowed the PKK to operate from Syrian territory, and that the Syrian government provided financial support as well as training to the terrorist group. The civil action sought both compensation and punitive damages from the Syrian government.
In the recent decision handed down on December 17th, the families were awarded $38 million dollars in compensatory damages. Also, the Court levied a $300 million punitive damages award against the Syrian government. According to the court, “Syria supported PKK activities during the years immediately preceding the kidnapping by hosting PKK training facilities on its soil, providing shelter for PKK’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and facilitating various forms of material support to the group, including weapons, safe houses, training facilities and more.”
Wilson and Wyatt, were leading an excavation near Agri (Mount Ararat) in eastern Turkey, searching to discover the location of the remains of the biblical Noah's Ark. They were held hostage by PKK captors for 21 days before they were finally released at a remote spot. They were allegedly subjected to brutal treatment, 18-hour forced marches and repeated assaults by PKK militants. It is reported that the terrorists made ransom demands to the Turkish and American governments.
A copy of the district court decision may be downloaded here.