July 10, 2003

Court awards damages to tortured Desert Storm POW

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma man tortured by Iraqis during the Gulf War was awarded $51 million by a federal judge in Washington who has ordered the Iraqi government to pay about $1 billion to 17 former prisoners of war.
U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts ruled that the former prisoners of war had shown they were tortured by the Republic of Iraq, the Iraqi Intelligence Agency and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, The Daily Oklahoman reported from its Washington bureau.

Marine Lt. Col. M. Craig Berryman, a native of Cleveland, Okla., was awarded $33 million in compensatory damages. His share of the punitive damages would be $18 million. Berryman’s wife, Leigh, was awarded $10 million.

Berryman, a pilot of a Harrier aircraft, was shot down near Kuwait City in January, 1991. He was held captive for 37 days.

In his ruling, Roberts said American prisoners of war were repeatedly beaten and endured other forms of torture.

“No American POWs were permitted to notify their families of their capture and current state of health,” Roberts said.

Many of the former prisoners of war continue to suffer emotionally and physically, the judge said.

Iraqi defendants have not filed court papers contesting their liability. Foreign countries have no immunity from civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages for torture if the country was believed to be a state sponsor of terrorism and the torture was carried out by an official government agent.

Roberts awarded a total of $653 million in compensatory damages and another $306 million in punitive damages to the prisoners of war.

The lawsuit was filed by 17 of the 21 prisoners held by the Iraqis during the 1991 Gulf War and by 37 of their immediate family members.

The prisoners of war must try to collect the money from Iraqi assets that have been frozen in the United States and are held by the Federal Reserve.

Two other Oklahomans have successfully sued the Iraqi government for injuries sustained during confinement.

Robin Beaty, the widow of an Oklahoma man who was held in Iraq for 205 days in 1993, and Bill Rodebush of McAlester, who was taken hostage by Iraqis when they invaded Kuwait in 1990, have received monetary damages from the frozen assets.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.