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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 03:45 GMT 04:45 UK
Court allows Reno case over Elian
An armed agent points a gun in the direction of Elian Gonzales
The plaintiffs say the raid was unnecessarily violent
The former US Attorney General, Janet Reno, can be sued for ordering last year's raid on the Miami home where the Cuban shipwreck boy Elian Gonzalez was living, a US federal judge has ruled.

US District Judge Michael Moore rejected the government's claim that Ms Reno, who ordered in April last year that Elian should seized by law-enforcement officers, had immunity because she was acting in an official capacity.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno
Reno: Seeking the Democratic nomination for governor
The suit was filed by 52 plaintiffs who said they were beaten, gassed or threatened with guns by agents during the raid.

Elian Gonzalez was rescued from a shipwreck off the coast of Florida in November 1999, after his mother and other passengers died trying to reach the United States from Cuba.

International custody battle

The boy stayed with relatives in Miami temporarily, as an international custody battle was waged between the relatives, backed by opponents of Cuban President Fidel Castro in the US, and Elian's father in Cuba.

Ms Reno ordered the raid of the relatives' house after they refused to hand the boy over to his father, who had come to the US to see him.

Armed agents tear-gassed protesters, broke open the door and grabbed Elian at gunpoint from the closet he was hiding in.

Although the judge ruled that Ms Reno could be sued, he dismissed allegations of force.

He said the raid was "neither particularly violent, nor was the number of law enforcement officers disproportionate to the... need to maintain order."

$100m suit

But Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group representing the plaintiffs, said Ms Reno acted irresponsibly in ordering the raid.

"She knew [bystanders'] constitutional rights would be violated and she didn't care," Mr Fitton said.

The plaintiffs are suing Ms Reno for at least $100m.

Judge Moore dismissed the suit against the other federal officials for lack of evidence and because they had not ordered the raid.

No trial date has been set.

Ms Reno is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida.

See also:

02 Jun 00 | Americas
Cuban anger at court ruling
01 Jun 00 | Americas
Court rejects Elian asylum bid
11 May 00 | Americas
Legal fight over Elian
01 May 00 | Americas
Millions demand Elian's return
26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
18 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's relatives at war
01 Feb 00 | Americas
Tug-of-love over Elian
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