A United States court has ordered the Syrian government to pay $338 million in compensation to the families of two U.S. citizens that were kidnapped by Kurdish militants in Turkey in 1991 as punishment for ultimately being “responsible for providing material support and resources” to the militants.
Royce C. Lamberth, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled Dec. 17 that Syria was vicariously liable for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) 1991 kidnapping of a group of American biblical archeologists leading an excavation in Turkey. The Americans, who were searching to discover the location of the remains of the biblical Noah’s Ark, were held hostage for 21 days before they finally were able to escape.
The court awarded the families $38 million in compensatory damages and levied a $300 million worth of punitive damages against the Syrian government as well.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin Law Center that represented the families, said the decision that “finds that Syria was responsible for the crimes perpetrated by the PKK terror organization it sponsors” was “groundbreaking.”
“These days Syria continues to commit crimes against those who oppose the regime, and Syria will pay,” Darshan-Leitner was quoted as saying in a press release.
“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.