US court orders Iran to pay $879m to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

Photo released by the US department of defense showing US and Saudi military personnel surveying the damages to Khobar Towers in Dhahran 26 June caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the King Abdul Aziz Air Base. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

US court orders Iran to pay $879m to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

  • The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material for the attack
  • The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were housing US forces when it was bombed in 1996

JEDDAH: A US federal court has held Iran responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia where US forces were housed, and ordered it to pay $879 million to survivors.

The Khobar Towers was a housing complex in the eastern city of Alkhobar, near the Abdulaziz Air Base and Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran, that housed American servicemen working on Operation Southern Watch.

A truck bomb was detonated on June 25, 1996, near an eight-story building of the housing complex. It killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national, wounding 498 others.

The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah who detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb, a Chicago law firm press release said. The attackers reportedly smuggled the explosives used in the attack from Lebanon.

A Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar said that imposing monetary fines was insufficient.

“One can understand monetary fines in the case of their ‘accidental’ shooting down of a civilian aircraft recently, but in these terrorist bombings, there should be a military response,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “A response that should be a deterrent. A response that should stop Iran from committing such acts of terror. Iran should not be allowed to get away by merely paying a couple of million dollars.” 

He said that this attack was not the only one that had been carried out by Iran and its militias. “They have been responsible for many such bombings and assassinations. We know how they assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. They are yet to be punished for that heinous crime.”

He said there was no doubt about the direct involvement of Iran in that bombing. “It is good to know that the US court has confirmed what we knew all along and it is good that Iran has been finally held accountable.” 

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh said: “This is further evidence that Iran is a major state sponsor of terrorism, a destabilizing force, and is engaged in financial, political and military support for militias and designated terrorist groups across the Middle East and in the West, with the aim of exporting its extremist ideals through terror, expanding its influence and achieving its hegemonic ambitions.”


 

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READ MORE: 45 Moments that changed the Middle East - The bombing of Khobar Towers

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The lawsuit was brought under the terrorism exception of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by the 14 injured US airmen and 21 of their immediate family members.

The defendants in the case were listed as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

“We will continue to seek to hold the Government of Iran accountable for this terrorist attack as long as is necessary,” said Adora Sauer, the lead attorney of MM LAW LLC.

US District Judge Beryl A. Howell found the defendants liable and awarded the plaintiffs $132 million for pain and suffering, as well as prejudgment interest, for a total compensatory damage award of $747 million and $132 million for punitive damages.

 


The court also said the plaintiffs were eligible for partial payments from the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons.

The attorneys also intend to pursue enforcement of the judgments through litigation intended to seize Iranian assets.

“The physical and psychological toll on our families has been extremely high, but this judgment is welcome news,” said Glenn Christie, a retired Air Force staff sergeant crew chief who was severely injured in the bombing. “More than 20 years on, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did at the Khobar Towers. Through the work of our attorneys, we intend to do just that.” 

According to John Urquhart of the Urquhart Law Firm, which also represents the bombing victims, the explosion had taken “so much from their minds and bodies” on the day of the attack and every day and night since then. “They can now live with that balance justice provides,” he said.


Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. The 86-year-old is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. (Supplied)
Updated 15 August 2020

Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

  • The Syrian Qur’an writer, regarded as one of the world’s finest calligraphers, is on the road to recovery following his recent hospital admission

MAKKAH: Syrian calligrapher Uthman Taha is in good health and recovering at home after a 13-day stay in a hospital where he was treated for what he and his wife initially suspected to be the novel coronavirus COVID-19, although he ultimately tested negative for the virus.

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. His wife, Fatimah Umm Al-Nour, said Taha had a chest infection during his stay at the hospital and stressed that he had been “careful and took all the precautionary measures” and that he had not left the house for five months before his hospital visit.
The 86-year-old calligrapher is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. She praised his doctors, who have consistently checked in with the couple since Taha returned home, and added that she has tested negative for COVID-19 too.
Taha is regarded as one of the most skilled calligraphers in the Arab world. Al-Nour told Arab News that he continues to practice calligraphy daily.
Taha, who has written the Qur’an 12 times at the King Fahd Complex, was born in 1934 and attended school in Aleppo. His father was also a skilled calligrapher, who used the Ruq’ah script, and Taha studied with several of Syria’s finest calligraphers including Mohammed Al-Mawlawi, Mohammed Al-Khatib, Hussein Al-Turki, and Ibrahim Al-Rifai.
When he moved to Damascus for university, Taha began to learn other scripts, including Thuluth, Naskh (in which he is now considered a master), and Farsi. He received his calligraphy certificate from master calligrapher Hamed Al-Amadi in 1973.
He arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1988, and began work as a calligrapher at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. He writes the Qur’an in the Ottoman script, and copies of his work have been distributed throughout the Islamic world.
What makes Taha’s work unique is that each page of the Qur’an that he writes concludes at the end of a verse. The secret, he explains, is to simplify the words — which is the origin of the Kufic script in which the Qur’an has been written since the days of Prophet Muhammad’s companions — keeping the letters close to one another.
Taha spent years perfecting his technique of evenly distributing the words in every line so that the space between the lettering is consistent throughout every page of every book, which means eliminating many of the script combinations that make such consistency difficult.
He explained to Arab News that when he is working on his Qur’an calligraphy he is transported: “When I begin writing the Holy Qur’an, I resort to solitude to allow myself to be invested in the verses and their interpretation, forgetting about the world around me,” he said. “I wish the verses about Jannah (heaven) would never end, and my hand trembles when I write the verses about Jahannam (hell).”