WASHINGTON _ Seeking to make terrorism more expensive for governments, Ohio University visiting professor and former hostage Terry Anderson on Tuesday vividly recalled his seven years in captivity in Lebanon and pressed for compensation from Iran.
“Governments use terrorism because it is cheap and easy,” Anderson testified in Federal District Court of the District of Columbia Tuesday. “If governments like Iran have to pay, these rulings will make it more expensive.”
Under a 1996 law, Anderson has filed suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran asking for $100 million in damages. The lawsuit alleges that Iran funded and supported the terrorist organization that kidnapped him in 1985. Anderson's wife, Madeleine Bassil, and his daughter, Sulome T. Anderson are also plaintiffs in the case.
At the time of his capture, Anderson was chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press. He was living in Beirut with Bassil, who was six-months pregnant with their daughter. Since 1998, Anderson has been a visiting professor at OU's E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.
Three other American hostages held with Anderson won a similar judgment in 1998, but they have yet to receive any compensation. Iran has refused to defend itself in any of the suits. It also has sent no lawyers to Anderson’s court hearing.
On Tuesday, the judge in Anderson's lawsuit issued a default ruling in Anderson's favor. Now the judge has to decide on damages.
Tuesday's testimony centered around Anderson's experience in Lebanon before, during and after his kidnapping. He vividly recalled the March morning in 1985 when three members of the Hezbollah, a paramilitary organization, kidnapped him on a public street. He knew immediately that he was going to be captive for a long time, he recalled.
“One of my kidnappers told me not to worry, because my kidnapping was only political,” he said, “I knew what that meant. I knew I was going to be gone for a while.”
He was gone for 2, 454 days – almost seven years.
During that time, Anderson was moved around Lebanon more than 20 times, psychologically abused, beaten and was often ill. “You cannot imagine the humiliation of having diarrhea when you are chained to the wall of a cell,” he said. “And you could bang on the wall for the guards all you wanted, but they only took you to the bathroom when they wanted to.”
But, Anderson testified, he has forgiven his captors. “You can hate what they did, and you can want compensation for that,” he testified. “But as a Christian and a practical man, you must forgive them.”
The hearing resumes today, with Dan Rather of CBS and Gene Roberts of the New York Times testifying about the effect of Anderson's capture on the news industry.