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The U.S. government is fighting a judge's order to hand over a suspected terrorist financier's money to a wounded Utah soldier and an Army medic's widow.
Federal officials have frozen the funds, but the U.S. government cannot hand over any money because it is not subject to rulings in civil lawsuits, says U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor.
The lawsuit was brought by Layne Morris, 45, West Jordan, and the family of Sgt. Christopher Speer, 28, Albuquerque, N.M., who was killed during a 2002 gun battle in Afghanistan.
Morris, who lost his right eye in the firefight, and Speer's widow sued their young attacker's father, Omar Khadr, whom federal officials say was financier to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell awarded Morris and Speer's widow $102 million. Cassell also ordered the U.S. Treasury to release any frozen assets owned by Khadr.
But Taylor filed a motion this month, saying the U.S. government has sovereign immunity, and any wavier of that power must be "unequivocally" spelled out in individual laws.
"Although sovereign immunity may be waived," said the motion, "there is no waiver in this case."
Taylor also said the U.S. government cannot turn over the assets because it does not own them.
Thus, Morris and Speer's widow must garnishee the funds from whoever has possession of Khadr's assets.
Morris' attorney, Jerry Hale, said the court already has ruled that Khadr's funds are to be released, under the U.S. Terrorism Act.
"The act says the money is there to be paid out, but on the other hand, the U.S. government is not subject to the rule of the court," said Hale. "The motion makes no sense."
Hale said if the U.S. government won't release the funds, the plaintiffs will again ask that federal officials divulge where the assets are located. Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise, however, has repeatedly said it is the plaintiffs' responsibility to find out for themselves.
Suspected attacker being held at Guantanamo
Utah soldier Layne Morris was wounded and Army medic Christopher Speer killed during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.
Their suspected attacker, then 15-year-old Omar Khadr, is being held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Morris and Speer's family filed a lawsuit under the USA Patriot Act, alleging the boy's father, Ahmad Sa'id Khadr, trained his son to kill Americans.
A Utah federal judge awarded a default judgement of $102 million to Morris and Speer's widow and two young children in 2006.