Fairfield University professor's work is cited authority in terrorism court case


A professor of Fairfield University's Charles F. Dolan School of Business wrote an article that was cited by the District Court for the District of Columbia in a landmark case pertaining to terrorism and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103.

The article, written by Debra M. Strauss, J.D., assistant professor of business law, is entitled, "Enlisting the U.S. Courts in a New Front: Dismantling the International Business Holdings of Terrorist Groups Through Federal Statutory and Common-Law Suits," and was published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 38(3), May 2005.

In Hurst v. The Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, et.al. (Civil Action No. 02-02147), the court cited Dr. Strauss's article as the authority in interpreting Section 2337 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, thereby denying the defendants' motion to dismiss the case. In effect, it has allowed a civil lawsuit against Libya and Libyan officers waged by the families of some of the of Pan Am passengers to continue. All 259 passengers on board Flight 103, and eleven people on the ground, were killed on December 21, 1988 when the plane exploded 31,000 feet in the air over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Dr. Strauss said, "This article has also made its way into the encyclopedic legal sources as the cited authority in this area. Now the article has reached the courts in support of precisely the type of lawsuits I had proposed against terrorist groups and state-sponsors of terrorism."

The defendants in the case are the Libyan Arab Airline (LAA), the Jamahiriya Security Organization (JSO), the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and two Libyan intelligence officers who were employees of the LAA.

An investigation determined that a portable radio-cassette player packed in a brown Samsonite suitcase that was smuggled onto the plane caused the explosion. An explosive device within the player was constructed with a digital timer manufactured and purchased by Libya.

The two Libyan intelligence officers are Abdel Bassett Ali Al-Megrahi and Lahem Khalif Fhimah. Al-Megrahi, who was also head of airline security for LAA, was convicted in 2001 of the murders for all the victims.

The plane had departed London's Heathrow Airport and was en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

Dr. Strauss earned a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Yale University.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 2, 2014

Vol. 39, No. 214