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REGIER v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

September 8, 2003

FRANK A. REGIER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Bates, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action against the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran") and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS") arises out of the kidnapping of plaintiff Frank A. Reiger in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1984. Frank Regier was abducted near the campus of the American University of Beirut ("AUB") and was subsequently held for sixty-five days by members of the Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization, Hizbollah. Frank and his wife Mary Regier now seek compensatory and punitive damages under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1602-1611, which eliminates foreign governments' immunity from suit for claims based on acts of state-sponsored terrorism, id. § 1605(a)(7).

Defendants failed to enter an appearance in this matter after being properly served with process. See id. § 1608. However, under the FSIA, even in such circumstances plaintiffs are required to "establish [their] claim or right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the court." Id. § 1608(e). Accordingly, following proper notice to defendants through diplomatic channels, this Court held an evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs' claims on November 12-13, 2002. Defendants failed to appear.

Based on the evidence presented, the Court now enters judgment in favor of plaintiffs and Page 2 makes the following findings of fact and legal and remedial conclusions.

FINDINGS OF FACT

I. Frank and Mary Regier

Frank Regier was born in the United States in Montgomery, West Virginia, on March 11, 1928. Tr. Vol. I, 75:6-75:11.*fn1 He is a citizen of the United States. Tr. Vol. I, 75:12-75:13. Frank graduated from high school in West Liberty, West Virginia. Tr. Vol. I, 75:14-75:17. Subsequently, he attended West Liberty State College for a year and a half, and Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, for two additional years. Tr. Vol. I, 75:10-75:20. At Bethel, he received a B.A. degree in Mathematics. Id. For a semester, he was a graduate student in mathematics at Iowa State University. Tr. Vol. I, 75:21-75:22.

After a two-year tour of duty in the Army during the Korean War, Frank attended the University of California, Berkeley from 1953-57, where he received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1955 and a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1957. Tr. Vol. I, 75:22-76:6.

Frank met Mary Regier in Berkeley in 1953. Tr. Vol. I, 76:17-77:5. From her he learned of the new engineering school being planned for AUB in Beirut. Tr. Vol. I, 77:13-77:16. Frank applied for and received a position on the faculty there upon his graduation from the University of California. Tr. Vol. I, 77:16-77:17. He joined the AUB faculty in 1957. Id. Subsequently, while on leave from AUB in 1964-68, Frank studied at Yale University, receiving a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1968. Tr. Vol. I, 76:6-76:13, 79:9-79:21.

Mary was born in Beirut on July 10, 1926. Tr. Vol. II, 20:20-20:23. She became a naturalized United States citizen in the summer of 1966 while on sabbatical at Yale. Tr. Vol. II, 20:24-21:13. Mary received both a B.A. and an M.A. in Mathematics from AUB. Tr. Vol. II, 21:14-21:17. Later, following one semester at Columbia University, Mary moved to Berkeley, California, and attended the University of California from 1953-57. Tr. Vol. II, 21:18-21:19. Page 3 She received a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of California in 1957. Tr. Vol. II, 21:19-21:21. Mary then returned to Beirut, where much of her family still lived, and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor on the AUB faculty. Tr. Vol. II, 21:25-22:6.

Frank and Mary were married in June 1958. Tr. Vol. I, 78:10-78:17. In the ensuing years they had two sons, Terrence P. Regier and Christopher G. Regier. Tr. Vol. I, 78:18-78:20.*fn2

Except for periods of sabbatical or studying, Frank and Mary served continuously on the faculty of AUB from 1957 until the events of the mid-1980s that form the basis of this case. Tr. Vol. I, 79:3-80:7; Tr. Vol. II, 22:5-22:10. By 1984, Frank had become Chairman of AUB's Electrical Engineering Department. Tr. Vol. I, 80:1-80:5.

II. The Deteriorating Situation in Beirut

Although many of the years the Regiers resided in Beirut were peaceful and happy, in 1975, Lebanon was plunged into a long civil war. Tr. Vol. I, 80:8-80:19.*fn3 Then, in 1982, amidst the existing turmoil, Israel invaded southern Lebanon. Tr. Vol. I, 81:12-82:3.

The radical Islamic government in Iran saw in the Israeli invasion an opportunity to exert its influence in Lebanon and drive all Westerners, particularly the Americans and French, from Lebanon. See Tr. Vol. I, 11:24-17:15; Exhs. 6, 16, 18, 19. In support of this goal, Iran poured money and personnel into southern Lebanon to empower and train the Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon — the sector of Lebanese society that traditionally had been at the low end of the economic scale. See Tr. Vol. I, 15:13-17:15; 48:20-54:7. Among other things, Iran established its influence by funding a terrorist group that went by various names including Page 4 "Hizbollah" and "Islamic Jihad." See Tr. Vol. I, 15:13-18:11; 48:20-54:7; Exhs. 7, 9.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Hizbollah undertook a series of violent actions directed at Westerners. See Tr. Vol. I, 18:13-22:19, 51:16-20; Exhs. 8, 15, 19. In July 1982, David Dodge, then the Acting President of AUB, was kidnapped while walking across the AUB campus in Beirut, and was ultimately held hostage for one year. Tr. Vol. I, 20:1-20:5; Vol. I, 82:4-82:18. On April 18, 1983, the United States Embassy in Beirut was bombed, Tr. Vol. I, 82:19-83:1, and six months later, the United States Marine Barracks and a French military facility in Beiruit were both bombed, Tr. Vol. I, 83:2-83:8.

Through much of 1983, the AUB campus was generally an enclave from the fighting of the war. The Regiers lived on campus, and for a time, managed to be somewhat insulated from the chaos around them. Tr. Vol. I, 83:9-84:22. However, the relative calm on the AUB campus changed on January 18, 1984, when Malcolm Kerr, President of AUB since July 1982, was assassinated just outside of his office. Tr. Vol. I, 86:9-87:2.

III. Frank's Abduction

The worsening conditions in Lebanon shook and worried the Regiers. They thought about leaving but did not immediately take any steps toward doing so. Tr. Vol. I, 83:9-83:14.

On February 10, 1984, within a month after President Kerr's assassination, Frank, then 55 years old, was kidnapped and taken hostage in Beirut. Tr. Vol. I, 87:11-87:13, 90:21-91:5.*fn4 Page 5 Frank was abducted at gunpoint off a Beirut street, forced into an automobile, and blindfolded. Tr. Vol. I, 89:1-91:12. The kidnappers drove Frank to an area of the city unfamiliar to him, where they tied his hands and feet and moved him to the trunk of their car. Tr. Vol. I, 91:14-91:18. Frank was taken first to the home of one of his abductors, where his hands were bound more securely, behind his back, and where he remained blindfolded. Tr. Vol. I, 92:3-92:7. His captors instructed him to lie down on a couch and not to move. Tr. Vol. I, 92:7-92:8. Frank could not help but move, however, as this position was extremely uncomfortable, and his guard would punch him in the face whenever he would do so. Tr. Vol. I, 92:8-92:23. Although the punches broke no bones, they caused Frank to "[see] stars," and his nose to swell so much that it became difficult for him to breathe. Tr. Vol. I, 92:14-92:17, 94:19-94:23.

That evening, Frank's kidnappers bound him in duct tape from head to toe, "like a mummy," although they left his mouth exposed, noticing his breathing troubles from the prior beatings. Tr. Vol. I, 92:25-93:1, 94:4-94:23, 97:4-97:7. Frank was then stuffed into a box (apparently designed to hold someone smaller than he) and hoisted into the false bottom of a truck. Tr. Vol. I, 94:24-95:6.

Frank's captors drove the truck for about ten minutes before reaching some sort of checkpoint. Tr. Vol. I, 95:9-95:14. When the truck stopped and Frank heard a conversation taking place, he yelled for help. Tr. Vol. I, 95:15-95:18. Frank hoped that the personnel at the checkpoint would come to his aid, but instead people came running back, yanked Frank out of the box, and threw him on a pile of gravel. Tr. Vol. I, 95:18-95:21. Frank's captors became very angry with him, warned Frank not to speak again, and administered a shot of something that made Frank "woozy" for the rest of the trip. Tr. Vol. I, 95:22-96:9; Exh. 33.

Frank's captors then took him to a building where he was confined to an underground room. Tr. Vol. I, 96:14-96:16. In that location, as well as other locations where he was subsequently held, the sanitary conditions he endured were very poor. He did not have free or immediate access to toilet facilities, and remained blindfolded even when he was permitted to use them. Tr. Vol. I, 98:21-99:24. Thus, he would limit the intake of liquids to avoid a need for Page 6 the toilet. Tr. Vol. I, 99:6-99:7. Frank was allowed only one shower, after about three weeks, and shaved only once while a hostage. Tr. Vol. I, 98:21-99:2, 105:8-18.

Frank was fed a monotonous and inadequate diet, and during his sixty-five days of captivity, he lost over thirty pounds. Tr. Vol. I, 101:17-101:21, 104:24-105:7; see also Tr. Vol. II, 9:8-9:20. According to Mary, Frank appeared "quite sick" upon his release. Tr. Vol. II, 31:9. Photographs submitted to the Court bear this out. See Exhs. 35, 40, 41.

By any measure, the conditions of Frank's captivity were brutal and inhumane. He was usually shackled to the wall and blindfolded. Tr. Vol. I, 100:3-101:25; 101:22-101:25. He received little or no exercise. Tr. Vol. I, 105:3-22. In fact, when he was ultimately released, he was so weak that "just walking fifty yards or something like that was quite exhausting." Tr. Vol. I, 105:20-105:22.

Frank was occasionally beaten by his captors and threatened with death if he did not act exactly as they demanded. Tr. Vol. I, 95:8-95:9, 115:17-115:25. On one occasion he was kicked in the face while he was sleeping. Tr. Vol. I, 107:1-107:5. As Frank testified, his captors were "frighteningly sadistic." Tr. Vol. I, 115:9-115:15; Exh. 32; see also Tr. Vol. I, 100:23-100:25, 101:6-101:7.

Indeed, Frank was both the victim of and the witness to certain psychological torture. Tr. Vol. I, 107:6-112:1. For example, he was once told that he was about to be released, only to be driven to what became the third location where he was kept. Tr. Vol. I, 107:10-108:17, 109:23-110:13. Understandably, this experience left him "very depressed." Tr. Vol. I, 110:22-111:2. On another occasion, Frank became loose from his chains in the middle of the night, but could not bring himself to attempt an escape. Tr. Vol. I, 101:25-102:18.

In a similar vein, although Frank's kidnappers provided him a supply of medication for the treatment of a heart condition, he testified that the medication was also valuable because he

had there the means of committing suicide. I had no thought of committing suicide, but I also knew things could get much worse than they are; and it could happen that at some time in the future I'd want to do it.
Tr. Vol. I, 112:5-112:16. Frank wondered if he could "possibly endure" one year, the length of Page 7 David Dodge's captivity, and testified that his sixty-five days "seemed like an eternity." Tr. Vol. I, 111:7-111:14. He "sometimes questioned whether [his] sanity would be intact" if he ever did get out. Exh. 26.

Frank testified to a "complete reversal from normal experience" with regard to sleeping and being ...


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