Jury clears Chevron of charges in Nigeria clash

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Dec 1, 2008 6:48pm EST

A Chevron tanker truck unloads gasoline into underground storage tanks in Burbank, Calfiornia, June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A Chevron tanker truck unloads gasoline into underground storage tanks in Burbank, Calfiornia, June 18, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A jury in U.S. federal court on Monday cleared Chevron Corp (CVX.N) of liability charges arising from a violent clash on one of its oil platforms off the coast of Nigeria 10 years ago.

The charges stemmed from May 1998, when about 100 people -- mainly villagers, protesting environmental damage and demanding compensation and jobs -- occupied Chevron's Parabe platform off the coast of West Africa for three days.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco was brought against Chevron by Larry Bowoto, one of the protestors who occupied the platform, under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue over human rights abuses committed in their countries by or on behalf of U.S. organizations.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs had argued that Nigeria military forces landed on Parabe to retake the platform were on Chevron's payroll and supervised by the company.

Chevron in a statement said it was gratified by the jury's verdict. "It was never Chevron Nigeria Ltd's intent that anyone on the platform be harmed, and we deeply regret the loss of life and injuries that occurred," the statement added.

The jury rejected claims that Chevron was liable for torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, assault, battery and negligence.

(Reporting Braden Reddall; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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