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WYATT v. SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC

September 30, 2005.

MARY NELL WYATT et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING SYRIA'S MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

  This case involves the Syrian Arab Republic's alleged support of a terrorist group (the Kurdistan Workers Party or "PKK") that abducted and held certain of the plaintiffs hostage in the early 1990s. The plaintiffs seek damages from the Syrian Arab Republic ("Syria") and the PKK for injuries resulting from the alleged hostage taking. Syria now moves to dismiss the plaintiffs' third amended complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the court denies Syria's motion to dismiss.

  II. BACKGROUND

  A. Factual Background

  The plaintiffs allege as follows. On August 30, 1991, two of the plaintiffs, Ronald E. Wyatt and Marvin T. Wilson, were traveling in a van in Turkey when they "were stopped and surrounded by approximately ten vehicles commanded by the PKK."*fn1 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 20. The PKK entered the van, removed the plaintiffs at gunpoint, and eventually held Wyatt and Wilson for twenty-one days in eastern Turkey. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The PKK forced Wyatt and Wilson

 
to march for up to eleven hours at a time and made [them] live outdoors exposed to the elements without food, shelter, or clothing . . . denied [Wyatt and Wilson] medical care, the ability to communicate with their families or the outside world, subjected [them] to indoctrination and brainwashing attempts and . . . otherwise mistreated [them].
Id. ¶ 22.

  The PKK and Syria "intended" the hostage-taking to (a) harm Turkish tourism; (b) embarrass the Turkish government; and (c) "utilize Wyatt and Wilson (and the other non-party hostages) as human bait to lure Turkish rescue personnel into ambushes in order to kill them." Id. ¶ 23. The PKK placed certain demands and conditions on the release of Wyatt and Wilson; the PKK made these demands and conditions to "outside parties," including governments of the United States, Britain, Australia, and Turkey. Id. In particular, the PKK demanded that: (a) the United States terminate its financial and military support of Turkey; (b) the United States, Britain, Australia and Turkey support an independent Kurdish state; (c) the international community recognize the PKK's right to control portions of Turkish territory; and (d) the Turkish government provide increased civil rights to Kurds. Id. ¶ 23.

  The plaintiffs further allege that
[a]t all times relevant to this complaint and for at least a decade prior to the abduction of plaintiffs, Syria routinely provided financial, technical, logistical and other material support and resources to the PKK for the express purpose of causing and facilitating the commission of terrorist acts, including acts of extrajudicial killing and hostage-taking.
Id. ¶ 28. As examples of this support, the plaintiffs cite Syria's (a) assistance and participation in hostage-taking (including the hostage-taking of Wyatt and Wilson); (b) supply of weapons, ammunition, and false passports to the PKK; (c) establishment and maintenance of the PKK headquarters and offices in Syria; (d) provision of a safe haven and shelter in Syria to senior PKK commanders; (e) establishment and maintenance of various PKK training and military bases; (f) provision of military and terrorist training to PKK members; and (g) establishment and maintenance of PKK's logistical infrastructure in Syria. Id. ¶ 29.

  B. Procedural History

  The plaintiffs filed their initial complaint in July 2001 and an amended complaint in March 2003. In February 2004, in light of Cicippio-Puleo v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 353 F.3d 1024 (D.C. Cir. 2004), this court sua sponte granted the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint for a second time "to clarify the jurisdictional basis for suit, the defendants and the capacity in which each defendant is sued, the cause of action for each claim, the relief requested for each claim, and any other matters affected by the intervening precedent." Mem. Op. (Feb. 23, 2004) at 1-2. The plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint on March 18, 2004. In that complaint, the plaintiffs listed as defendants the Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian Ministry of Defense, Mustafa Tlass (the Syrian Minister of Defense), Ghazi Kanaan (a Syrian military officer), and the PKK. 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-19.

  The defendants (with the exception of the PKK) filed their first motion to dismiss in May 2004. Believing that the motion attacked the factual basis of the court's subject matter jurisdiction, in September 2004, the plaintiffs moved to compel jurisdictional discovery. The court granted the plaintiffs' motion in November 2004, and ordered the parties to submit a joint jurisdictional discovery plan. Syria moved for reconsideration several days later, arguing that the court should avoid discovery because the complaint could be dismissed on grounds that would not subject a foreign sovereign to burdensome discovery. On December 14, 2004, the court granted Syria's motion for reconsideration, holding that the most appropriate course of action would be for the parties to complete the chain of briefing on Syria's motion to dismiss prior to any discovery. On January 26, 2005, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of their claims against the Syrian Ministry of Defense, Mustafa Tlass, and Ghazi Kanaan. Pls.' Notice of Dismissal at 1. As a result, the only defendants remaining in this case are Syria and the PKK.

  On March 3, 2005, the court denied Syria's motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction grounds; denied without prejudice Syria's motion to dismiss on subject matter jurisdiction grounds; denied without prejudice Syria's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim; and directed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint for a third time with a statement of which law they seek to apply.*fn2 Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 362 F. Supp. 2d 103, 117-18 (D.D.C. 2005). On April 1, 2005, the plaintiffs submitted their third amended complaint, in which they allege claims arising under Tennessee law with respect to the Wyatt family plaintiffs and Texas law with respect to the Wilson family plaintiffs (the states ...


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