Washington, Feb 06 (IANS): Survivors of the USS Pueblo are suing North Korea, 50 years after the American spy ship was seized off the Korean Peninsula and its crew held hostage and tortured for 11 months, the media reported.
More than 100 crew members and relatives have joined a lawsuit, filed this month in a federal court under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism for torture, hostage-taking, personal injury or death.
"Our clients are seeking to hold North Korea accountable for the unspeakable acts committed against the crew of the USS Pueblo more than 50 years ago and the impact it has had on them and their families since then," the plaintiffs' lawyers said in a statement to CNN on Monday night.
"Even though they can't get back that nearly entire year of their lives, they hope this case will finally bring closure to that horrible chapter."
US President Donald Trump named North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism in November 2017, after it was removed from the list in 2008 by former President George W Bush, re-opening the window to litigation against Pyongyang under the 1976 Act.
The Pueblo was seized by North Korea while it was in international waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula on January 23, 1968, CNN reported.
The 83 crew members were transported to the North Korean port of Wonsan and later to a detention centre near Pyongyang.
They remained there for 11 months leading to the US to sign a North Korean-drafted apology and the men were finally released across the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
According to the lawsuit, the experience of their captivity -- which included regular beatings and torture, malnourishment and general ill treatment -- left many of the men with "severe and lasting or permanent physical injuries and disfigurement and psychological harm".
The plaintiffs in the new case are seeking at least $600 million in damages, or around $5.7 million each.