Nigerians appeal Chevron win of platform clash case

SAN FRANCISCO, April 3 (Reuters) - Nigerians who sought to blame Chevron Corp CVX.N for a violent clash on an oil platform off their country's coast more than a decade ago have appealed a verdict in the U.S. company's favor.

A federal jury in San Francisco cleared Chevron in December of liability in the break-up by Nigerian forces of a 1998 occupation of its Parabe platform, where about 100 villagers had been protesting environmental damage and demanding compensation and jobs.

“We believe the jury’s verdict was wrong and we look forward to being vindicated on appeal,” Cindy Cohn, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said of the case filed with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit has been watched closely by companies extracting resources in often-dangerous regions because it was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue over human rights abuses committed by or on behalf of U.S. organizations.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L faces the start in the coming weeks of a trial in New York on charges of human rights violations in Nigeria brought on behalf of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed along with eight other people by the Nigerian government in 1995.

Oil companies working in the Niger Delta, where villagers complain that they see no benefit from the industry and suffer from the resulting environmental damage, often face threats of violence and hostage taking.

The Chevron case was brought by Larry Bowoto, a protester injured when Nigerian forces landed on Parabe, nine miles (15 km) off the coast, to end the three-day occupation.

The jury rejected claims that the San Ramon, California-based company was liable for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, torture, assault, battery and negligence.

“A jury unanimously found that Chevron was not liable for any of the claims by Bowoto and the other plaintiffs,” Chevron said in a statement on Friday. “We believe the plaintiffs appeal is without merit.”

Plaintiffs had argued Chevron was liable because it paid, housed and fed the forces, which the company’s lawyer said was industry practice in a part of the world where the government is the only security option.

Judge Susan Illston, who heard the Bowoto case in the U.S. court for the Northern District of California, had denied the plaintiffs’ request for a new trial.

Cases in San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals can take up to two years to be heard. (Reporting by Braden Reddall; editing by Bernard Orr)