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Victims of September 1989 UTA Flight 772 Bombing Seek Court Ruling That Libya is Responsible For Murder of 170 Persons

Washington, D.C. – September 19, 2005:  A federal court in Washington, D.C. was asked today to rule that the Government of Libya and six of its intelligence agents, including the brother-in-law of long-time dictator Col. Maumar Qhadaffi, were guilty of carrying out the September 19, 1989 destruction of UTA Flight 772 as it flew over the North African desert toward Paris. The UTA bombing took place nine months after the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing more than 240 persons, a terrorist attack for which Libya already has accepted responsibility.

The court filing disclosed for the first time detailed forensic evidence and testimony proving that high-ranking members of the Libyan government and intelligence services were directly responsible for planning and carrying out the placement of a suitcase bomb on the plane.

After almost three years of court proceedings, the families of the seven Americans who were among the 170 persons killed on the UTA flight have asked the federal court to immediately rule, through “summary judgment” procedures, that Libya and its agents are responsible for the bombing. If accepted by the Court, a trial will not be held and the Court would then determine the amount of damages, which could amount to more than $2 billion USD for loss of life and destruction of the DC-10 jumbo jet.

“This case is about accountability,” Stuart H. Newberger, partner at Crowell & Moring and attorney for the American victims' families, said. “The government of Libya deliberately blew up a jumbo jet flying from Africa to Paris killing 170 innocent people. Libya has already taken responsibility for the Pan Am Flight 103 sabotage. To this day, they have refused to take responsibility for UTA Flight 772, even though there is no question that they planned, financed, and carried out this horrendous attack. Since they have refused to accept responsibility, it will now be for the court to hold them accountable.”

The victims have submitted to the court extensive materials compiled during the investigation and resulting criminal proceedings conducted by authorities in France, headed by Magistrate Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, that country's leading terrorism investigator. Included are incriminating statements by former members of the Libyan intelligence agencies who have since fled Qhadaffi's regime, scientific proof directly connecting the Libyan government with the placement of a suitcase bomb on the aircraft, and evidence that Libya attempted to hide its role in the UTA bombing as the French investigators built their case. 

Among the more than 40 surviving family members who have filed suit is retired U.S. Ambassador Robert Pugh, whose wife, Bonnie, was flying from Chad to Paris when the plane blew up, killing everyone on board. “I want accountability. The government of Libya murdered my wife and robbed our two children of their mother. Nothing can bring her back, but I continue to hope that the rule of law will hold them accountable for this act of international terrorism.”

Also supporting the families' request is testimony from retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas E. McNamara, the former chief of Counter-Terrorism at the National Security Council and the U.S. Department of State. Ambassador McNamara successfully headed the efforts of the US, British and French governments to have the United Nations Security Council impose sanctions on Libya for its role in the Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 bombings.

A ruling on the victims' request is expected by the end of the year.

Crowell & Moring LLP is a full-service law firm with approximately 300 attorneys practicing in litigation, antitrust, government contracts, corporate, intellectual property and more than 40 other practice areas. More than two-thirds of the firm's attorneys regularly litigate disputes on behalf of international corporations, start-up businesses, and individuals. Crowell & Moring's extensive client work ranges from advising on one of the world's largest telecommunications mergers to handling complex intellectual property litigation. Based in Washington, D.C., the firm has offices in Brussels, California and London.

Editor's Notes:

Stuart H. Newberger

Stuart H. Newberger is a partner in the Litigation Group of Crowell & Moring and chairs the firm's Victims of Terrorism Group. He has handled a wide range of cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state courts of appeals, and trial courts across the nation. He also tries international arbitration proceedings in Europe and the United States. Among the areas of his practice are constitutional law, international law and cross-border disputes, ethics and national-security matters. Many of his cases raise issues that intersect public policy, international relations, litigation, legislation, administrative law and the media. Many cases involve disputes with governmental bodies or agencies. Newberger served as law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene and is a former Assistant United States Attorney. He has served as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and has lectured regularly at law schools across the nation. He is a regular speaker at meetings of the American Bar Association and at the annual Congress of the Union International des Avocats at locations around the world.

Crowell & Moring's Victims of Terrorism Practice

Representative matters handled by the Crowell & Moring Victims of Terrorism Group include lawsuits by former hostages held in Lebanon against the Islamic Republic of Iran; administrative and legislative efforts involving claims by victims of the bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya; claims against Iran by victims of the bombing of the United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983; and proceedings arising from terrorist activities in several other foreign countries. Team members also have actively participated as lead counsel or amici counsel in several civil terrorism cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.


An Pham
Senior Communications Manager