Syria was represented by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark in an
appeal that was heard in November 2010. The families of Armstrong and
Hensley sued Assad, military intelligence and its director Assaf Chawkat,
accusing them of providing material support to Al Qaida and particularly its
late commander Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi.
"Syria did not respond or otherwise enter an appearance in court," the
appeals court said in its unanimous ruling. "As a result, the clerk of the
court entered a procedural default against Syria and the district court
subsequently held a three-day evidentiary hearing to determine whether the
families could establish their claims 'by evidence satisfactory to the
In 2004, Armstrong and Hensley, contractors for the U.S. military, were
abducted and beheaded days later in an execution conducted by Al Zarqawi.
The Al Qaida-aligned Tawhid W'al Jihad issued a videotape of the beheading.
Four years later, the families of the contractors were awarded damages
by a federal district court of more than $400 million from the Syrian
government. Syria appealed the default judgment, arguing that the district
court lacked jurisdiction and that it never received a summons.
"Syria also argues the case is a non-justiciable political question,"
the appeals court said. "These arguments are specious and clearly resolved
by this court's prior cases, including some that involved Syria and its