Lawyer blasts verdict that blamed Syria for journalist death

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A U.S. court verdict that blamed the Syrian government for the killing of an American journalist was "politically motivated" and aimed at stealing Syrian funds abroad, the head of the Syrian Bar Association said Tuesday.

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Nizar Skeif told The Associated Press that "in my opinion this ruling has no legal value if there is a self-respecting justice."

A Washington judge last month hit Syria with a $302 million judgment over the 2012 death of Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson concluded the Syrian military had deliberately targeted a makeshift media center in Homs city where Colvin and other journalists were working.

Skeif reiterated government statements that said Colvin had entered the country illegally and stayed in areas controlled by insurgents that the Syrian government refers to as terrorists.

"This act, this crime if one was committed it was committed by herself, for more than one reason," he said. "The first reason is that she entered illegally and by smuggling into areas controlled by terrorists and in support of the terrorists. Second, who killed her? She was among the terrorists and in their embrace and she entered Syria without permission from the information ministry."

Skeif said foreigners who want to enter Syria should obtain a visa "because entering Syria should be respected according to legal rules." He noted that foreigners may not enter the United States without a visa.

Lawyers for Colvin's family argued that her death was no accident. They hope to recover the $302 million verdict by targeting frozen Syrian government assets overseas.

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