Terry Anderson, the journalist who was held hostage for more than six years in Lebanon, sued the Iranian Government yesterday for what he says is its role in his imprisonment.
Mr. Anderson, 51, who teaches journalism at Ohio University, said he expected the United States Government to resist his lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Washington.
Such lawsuits have been possible only since 1996. Three of Mr. Anderson's fellow hostages won a $65 million judgment against Iran last August.
But no money has been collected. In October, President Clinton waived a requirement passed by Congress that month that Federal agencies help recover such claims, and United States Government lawyers have fought efforts to obtain those damages.
"The trick is not to win the lawsuit," Mr. Anderson said yesterday. "The trick is to get money out of anyone."
The 1996 law allows legal action against countries that the Government accuses of sponsoring terrorism against United States citizens.
The measure passed in October requires the State and Treasury De-
A former captive
expects no help from
the United States.
partments to help recover damages. But Congress gave the President the power to bar such help "in the interest of national security." The Administration used that power in the previous case, saying such lawsuits constrained its diplomatic efforts.
"The Clinton Administration wishes we would just go away," said Mr. Anderson, contending that the Government sees such suits as complicating foreign policy. " But we are not going to go away."In his lawsuit, Mr. Anderson claims that the Government of Iran sponsored the Islamic radicals who held him captive more than six years in Lebanon.
Mr. Anderson was taken hostage on March 16, 1985, in Beirut and freed 2,454 days later, on Dec. 4, 1991.
The lawsuit, in which Mr. Anderson seeks $100 million in damages, names as plaintiffs Mr. Anderson, his wife, Madeleine Bassil, 49, and their daughter Sulome, 13, who was born after her father, who was then Associated Press Chief Middle East correspondent, was taken captive as he returned from playing a game of tennis in the morning.
The lawsuit names as defendants the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security.
The suit says that Mr. Anderson's kidnappers, members of Hezbollah, or Party of God, were part of "a politico-paramilitary terrorist organization" with ties to Iran.
Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Seyed Mohammad Hadi Nejad Hosseinian, has rejected claims that Iran supported the kidnappers and said that there was "no shred of credible evidence" that it financed He[z]bollah, according to a statement faxed to The Associated Press by the Iranian Government. The statement said that Iran condemned international terrorism.
Iran is named as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department, along with Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Thomas Sutherland, who was also held hostage with Mr. Anderson, has said he plans to file a similar suit within the next two months.
Mr. Anderson's suit contends that Iran is the main sponsor of the Party of God, "providing it with funding, direction and training for its terrorist activities."
The suit says that Mr. Anderson, while being held hostage, was fed a poor diet of bread, cheese and rice, and that he was beaten, taunted and humiliated. It claims he was often threatened with death, and that he heard his fellow captives beaten and one die. It says he grew so depressed he beat his head against a wall until he bled.
(article accompanied by (Associated Press) photograph of Terry Anderson, captioned:
Terry Anderson, at his home in Athens, Ohio, is seeking $100 in damages from Iran for what
he says is its role in his kidnapping.
(text of March 23, 1999 New York Times article)