(CNSNews.com) - Federal Judge Michael Moore ruled Wednesday that former Attorney General Janet Reno can be sued by the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez for last year's Easter weekend raid on the Little Havana home where the youngster was living.
Moore rejected the federal government's claim that Reno, who ordered last year that law enforcement officers should seize Elian, had immunity because she was acting in her official capacity as attorney general.
52 plaintiffs filed the lawsuit. They said they were beaten, gassed or threatened with guns by agents during the raid. Reno is being sued for at least $100 million.
Armando Gutierrez, a spokesman for Elian's Miami relatives was happy about Moore's ruling.
"I think it's a great thing that we live in this great country and people are allowed to file a lawsuit on something that was unjustly done. The same judge that ruled that Elian must go back to Cuba, has ruled that Reno can be sued for the unlawful use of force," Gutierrez said.
Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the Florida East Coast on Thanksgiving Day, 1999 after his mother and other passengers died on a raft trying to reach the United States from Cuba.
Reno ordered the Easter weekend raid when the relatives refused to hand the boy over to his natural father, who had been sent to the United States by the Castro government to eventually retrieve him and take him back to Cuba. Elian is living in Cardenas.
While Moore ruled that Reno could be sued, he said the raid was "neither particularly violent, nor was the number of law enforcement officers disproportionate to the need to maintain order."
Federal agents converged on the Little Havana house in the wee hours of the Saturday morning before Easter. They tear gassed protesters, broke open the door and grabbed Elian at gunpoint from the closet he was hiding in. No trial date has been set.
Reno is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida.
Judicial Watch, a legal group handling the case for the Miami relatives is happy that the case can now proceed.
"This is an important victory for the patriotic Cuban-American community which has put its faith in America's judicial system to hold Janet Reno accountable for the violent raid which hurt those peaceful protestors praying that Elian would remain free in America rather than in chains in communist Cuba," said Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel Larry Klayman.
"Janet Reno can run for governor, as is her right. But she can't run from the law - or from Judicial Watch," added Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.