Two Marines who were among those hostages released by Iranian students holding the U.S. Embassy in Tehran filed a $60 million damage suit yesterday against the Iranian government in U.S. District Court.
The two, Sgt. William E. Quarles, who lives in Washington, and Cpl. Westley Williams, of Albany, N.Y., claim they were falsely imprisoned and assaulted by the students during the takeover and that they suffered emotional distress as a result.
The suit contends that the Iranian government is responsible for any damages because it permitted the takeover to occur and then made no effort to prevent the hostages from being harmed further.
Neither Quarles nor Williams, who roomed together in Tehran where they served as marine guards to the embassy compound, could be reached yesterday for comment.
According to the attorney for the two men, John P. Coale, the idea of filing a suit was conceived during a visit to his office by Quarles' mother, Laura Mae Reeder, while the men were still being held hostage.
"She came in on another matter and we got to talking about it," Coale said.
"I saw a classic wrong and there was money -- there was damages to be paid. . . . If anybody deserves [the opportunity to collect] claims against Iran, it's the hostages themselves."
Coale said Reeder waited until several days after her son, who has lived since childhood with his grandmother returned from Iran before asking him if he would be interested in pursuing the suit. He said Quarles agreed and contacted Williams, who also agreed to filing the suit.
Coale said he contacted the State Department to make sure that filing the suit would not jeopardize the continuing efforts to free the 50 remaining hostages. Initially the State Department asked him to wait. Then, earlier this week, Coale said James Atwood, a State Department legal adviser, told him that, while the government could not "take a positive pro" position regarding filing a suit, it would not oppose it.
"We haven't encouraged it and we haven't discouraged it," Atwood said yesterday.
Should the suit be successful, Coale said he anticipated payment of damages could come from Iranian funds frozen by President Carter in this country.
Kamran Movassaghi, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Washington, said embassy personnel are studying the suit. "I can't give you any comment now," he said.