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U.S. court revives lawsuit against Pfizer

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A case against AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), and other businesses was renewed by a US appeals court on Tuesday, alleging that their contracts with Iraq’s health ministry helped fund terrorism that murdered Americans during the war in Iraq.

The plaintiffs claim that the Hezbollah-backed paramilitary group Jaysh al-Mahdi controlled Iraq’s health ministry, and that the 21 defendant U.S. and European medical equipment and pharmaceutical corporations bribed their way into medical-supply contracts.

“Further processes will prove the businesses are not culpable in any way,” representatives from the five corporate groupings – AstraZeneca, GE Healthcare USA Holding, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) Pfizer, and Hoffmann-La Roche Inc – said in a joint statement.

Family members of victims of Mahdi group attacks in Iraq filed the complaint, which was revived by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2020, a federal trial judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Lawyer Kannon Shanmugam, who argued the appeal on behalf of the companies, did not immediately comment. The lawyer for the family members, Joshua Branson, also did not immediately comment.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq toppled strongman president Saddam Hussein in 2003, lawyers for the companies told the appeals court that they provided the Iraqi government with “life-saving breast cancer treatments, hemophilia injections, ultrasounds, electrocardiogram machines, and other medical goods.”

A verdict against the corporations, Shanmugam said in court in September, “would have a significant chilling effect on the willingness of companies and non-governmental organizations to do vital activities, frequently at the government’s request, in problematic regions.”