$21 million awarded in Somalia torture case

A US judge on Tuesday awarded $21 million to seven people who sued a former prime minister of Somalia now living in Virginia for torture.

According to Somaliland Press, the lawsuit claimed Mohamed Ali Samantar, 76, of Fairfax, tortured and killed his own people 20 years ago. The decision comes after an eight-year legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia selects new speaker

The seven Somali natives filed the lawsuit against their former prime minister in 2004 in an Alexandria federal court, reported Horseed Media. Samantar also served as vice president and defense minister throughout his time in politics in the 1980s under dictator Siad Barre up until the months before the regime collapsed in 1991. The suit claimed it was Samantar who personally ordered the killings and torture of members of minority clan Isaaq.

Samantar has denied the accusations and claimed immunity from the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press. He entered a default judgment on the day the trial was to start and, while he accepted legal liability for the killings, he denied any wrongdoing.

"The case was never about money," said one of the plaintiffs, Aziz Deria of Bellevue, Wash. "This case was about having an opportunity to be in court with Samantar and prove he was in charge of what was happening."