MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A former Somalia prime minister who lost a long U.S. court battle over accusations of killing and torture has died, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced Saturday.
The president called Mohamed Ali Samantar a “genius” who had done a lot for his country.
Samantar died in Virginia at age 85. The cause of his death was not specified.
He served throughout the 1980s under dictator Siad Barre as prime minister, vice president and defense minister before the regime was overthrown in 1991 by warlords, plunging the Horn of Africa nation into decades of conflict.
Samantar later moved to the United States, where he was sued by seven Somalis who accused him of personally ordering the killings and torture of members of the minority Isaaq clan.
After an eight-year legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the argument that Samantar enjoyed legal immunity as a former foreign official, a judge in 2012 awarded $21 million to his accusers. While he accepted legal liability for the killings, he denied wrongdoing.
At the time, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which represented the plaintiffs, called the ruling the first in the world to hold a leader in the Barre regime responsible for crimes it perpetrated.
Not long before the ruling, Samantar told The Associated Press that he could no longer afford the costly litigation and that his failing health made it difficult for him to defend himself.