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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Judge to Hold USS Cole Lawsuit Hearing

Thanks to Rory O'Connor for the link to this Associated Press article:

Published: February 15, 2007
Filed at 5:14 a.m. ET

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- A $105 million lawsuit against the Sudanese government filed by families of 17 sailors killed in the USS Cole bombing is scheduled to go to trial next month -- even though huge questions loom.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. Doumar called a hearing for Thursday to determine what laws from which country -- the United States, Sudan or Yemen -- apply to the lawsuit, said Andrew C. Hall, an attorney for the families.

The suit alleges that Sudan's government provided financial and training support to al-Qaida, including the Yemeni militants who planned the attack on the destroyer in the Aden, Yemen, harbor on Oct. 12, 2000. Sudan denies the accusation.

Sudan's lawyers, who argue the federal court here lacks jurisdiction, have notified Doumar they will attend but will not argue the merits of the case, Hall said.

Sudan has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing. Hall said the lawsuit should go to trial as scheduled March 13, unless the high court issues a stay.

Hall said the American public will learn new details about the attack at trial, with families' lawyers arguing that the Cole bombing wouldn't have occurred ''without Sudan's active involvement.''

Lawyer Gregory Stillman, who has been representing the East African nation of Sudan, did not return telephone calls seeking comment this week.

About 50 people -- including R. James Woolsey, former CIA director under President Clinton -- already have been questioned and the judge will receive their depositions, Hall said. About seven witnesses will testify in person, he said.

The case file has been in Doumar's chambers and unavailable for viewing. Hall confirmed that filings include documents saying 11 men trained at an al-Qaida camp near Sudan's capital for terrorist acts including the Cole attack and that the men relied on Sudan's government for safe harbor, money and the explosives that tore a hole in the Norfolk-based Cole's hull.

Last fall, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond denied Sudan's request for dismissal, ruling that the allegations establish a reasonable connection between a country providing material support to a terrorist group and the damage arising out of a subsequent attack.

The three-judge panel also dismissed the remainder of Sudan's appeal of the lawsuit, which also alleges the Cole attack was part of a decade-long plan of international terrorism against the United States, and that Sudan provided shelter and a safe haven for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden between 1991 and 1996.