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CICIPPIO v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

August 27, 1998

JOSEPH J. CICIPPIO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACKSON

DECISION AND ORDER

 Three male U.S. citizens, joined by the spouses of two of them, bring this action for damages for tortious injuries done to them in the course of their kidnapping, imprisonment and torture by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran") between the years 1985 and 1991 in Beirut, Lebanon. Jurisdiction is predicated upon 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330(a) and 1605(a)(7).

 Iran was served with process on April 28, 1997 (see infra, n. 4), but did not respond to the complaint, and default was entered November 13, 1997. The case was therefore tried ex parte to this Court, sitting without a jury, on July 20-21, 1998. Upon the evidence adduced at trial, from which the facts set forth below are found pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a), the Court concludes that judgments shall be given for plaintiffs.

 I.

 In the mid-1980's all five plaintiffs were civilians residing in Beirut, Lebanon. David Jacobsen, 54 years of age in 1985 and unmarried, was the chief executive officer of the American University of Beirut Medical Center. *fn1" In 1986, Joseph Cicippio, 56 years old, was comptroller of the American University of Beirut and its hospital, and had recently married plaintiff Elham Cicippio, then a Lebanese citizen. Frank Reed, aged 51 in 1986, owned and operated two private schools in Beirut with a Lebanese partner. Fifi Dalati-Reed, his wife, was a teacher. None had any connection whatsoever with the U.S. government.

 Beginning in May of 1985, each man was independently assaulted, subdued, and abducted by several armed male assailants while on public thoroughfares in the vicinity of their homes or offices. Each was held prisoner separately, at various locations in Beirut or its environs, under similar abject conditions. Their captors have been identified as members of Hizballah, a politico-paramilitary organization sponsored, financed, and controlled by Iran. Hizballah's mission was to exploit the disorder in Lebanon following the Israeli military incursion of 1982 and to diminish American influence in the region. Hizballah was and is a terrorist organization, and Iran is recognized officially as a state sponsor of acts of terrorism, including kidnapping and hostage-taking. *fn2"

 Jacobsen was held in captivity for 532 days, nearly a year and a half. Reed was held for 1330 days, over three and a half years. Cicippio remained a prisoner the longest, 1908 days, or five years and three months.

 At trial, each of the three former hostages testified in detail about his ordeal and the inhumane treatment he received. See Tr. July 20, 1998 (hereinafter "July 20 Tr.") at 22-68 (Jacobsen); July 20 Tr. at 93-125 (Reed); Tr. July 21, 1998 (hereinafter "July 21 Tr.") at 11-46 (Cicippio). The following summaries do not do full justice to their accounts.

 II.

 David Jacobsen

 Shortly before 8:00 a.m. on May 28, 1985, Jacobsen was walking with a companion between the American University of Beirut campus and the Medical Center. As they crossed an intersection, a van pulled beside them, and two or three men grabbed Jacobsen from behind while another man with a gun fought with the companion. The assailants forced Jacobsen into the van, pistol-whipped, bound and gagged him, and pushed him into a hidden compartment under the floor of the back of the van.

 Jacobsen was held captive with several others, in darkness or blindfolded, for 18 months. During that entire time, he says, he was able to see the sunlight twice and the moon once. His captors kept Jacobsen chained by his ankles or wrists, wearing nothing but undershorts and a t-shirt. Meals consisted of pita bread and a bit of dry cheese for breakfast, a bowl of rice with a dehydrated soup sauce for lunch, and a piece of bread for dinner. Sometimes his guards would spit into his food before serving him. *fn3"

 In addition to the physical suffering caused by the conditions of confinement, Jacobsen and his fellow prisoners were subjected to regular beatings on all parts of their bodies. Jacobsen was frequently confronted with the prospect of imminent death; at any time a guard might put a gun to his head and threaten to kill him. His captors interrogated him incessantly, accusing him of working for the C.I.A. (which he did not), in the course of which he would be intermittently beaten as well. Although blindfolded, he could overhear other hostages suffering as he was, including the moments of their deaths, constantly fearing that he might be next. He heard the death throes of fellow hostage William Buckley, and listened as well as a French hostage died of his infirmities and another was executed by gunshot.

 As with all the former hostages, the looming uncertainty of the future was a constant demoralizing force for Jacobsen: unlike sentenced criminals, he observed, a hostage is aware only of how long he has been held; he knows nothing as to when, if ever, he will be released. On four occasions Jacobsen's captors intimated that they would release him shortly, only to continue his imprisonment without explanation.

 On November 2, 1986, Jacobsen was finally released. Since his release, Jacobsen has been under continuous treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his captivity. See Pls.' Ex. 18 ...


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