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US Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Ex-Somali Official

FILE - Aziz Deria, shown in Washington, D.C., is one of several victims who have pending lawsuits against former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a former Somali prime minister who was ordered to pay more than $20 million to victims of human rights abuses in his country.

The court Monday declined to review a lower court ruling that allows a lawsuit to proceed against Mohamed Ali Samantar. He served as prime minister and defense minister in the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the 1980's and early 1990's.

U.S. federal courts have found that Samantar, who lives in the U.S. state of Virginia, cannot claim immunity on account of being an official of a foreign government. His lawyers had asked the Supreme Court to reconsider that ruling.

In 2012, a U.S. district court ordered Samantar to pay $21 million in damages to victims of torture and other abuses carried out by officials who were operating under his command. The suit was filed by a group of Somali immigrants now living in the United States.

The Obama administration had urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case and to allow the lower court ruling to stand.