U.S. Supreme Court to hear bid to revive punitive damages against Sudan over embassy bombings

FILE PHOTO: Students walk up the steps during a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a bid to reinstate $4.3 billion in punitive damages against Sudan in a lawsuit accusing it of complicity in the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

The justices took up an appeal by hundreds of people hurt and relatives of people killed in the bombings as they seek to reinstate the punitive damages that a lower court in 2017 ruled could not be levied against Sudan in addition to about $6 billion in compensatory damages imposed in the litigation.

Twelve Americans were among the dead in the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks, with thousands of other people wounded.

The damages were imposed by default because for most of the litigation Sudan did not appear before a lower court to defend itself against allegations that it harbored and provided support to the Islamist militant group al Qaeda, which led to the bombings.

The truck bombs that detonated outside the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania marked the first large-scale al Qaeda attack. Three years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda operatives crashed hijacked planes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.

The plaintiffs sued in federal court in Washington under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally bars claims against foreign countries except those designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, as Sudan has been since 1993. Other claims were made under local District of Columbia law.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

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