Kim Jong Il 311.
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – A US judge has fined North Korea for its role in a 1972 terror
attack in Israel, a landmark ruling that for the first time holds Pyongyang
accountable for such activity, according to lawyers involved with the
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On the heels of the decision, the US separately announced Wednesday
that it was intensifying sanctions on Pyongyang as a response to the sinking of
a South Korean warship apparently at the hands of North Korea in
The moves have the shared effect of intensifying pressure on the
isolated regime of Kim Jong-Il, though few expect his government to pay the $300
million demanded by the court.
In a ruling delivered Friday, US District
Court Judge Francisco Besosa in Puerto Rico found North Korea liable for its
role in providing material support to the Japanese Red Army and Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, which killed 26 people and wounded more than 80
others in a shooting spree at Lod Airport, now Ben- Gurion Airport.
of those killed were tourists from Puerto Rico, including Carmelo Calderon-
Molina. His family, along with that of Pablo Tirado-Ayala, who was wounded in
the attack, brought the suit in 2006.
“It’s very significant, since it’s
the first judgment against North Korea,” said Israeli lawyer Nitsana
Darshan-Leitner, who represented the families.
She said the case was
motivated in part as a protest against the US’s removing North Korea from its
statesponsors- of-terror list, adding that she hoped this would encourage the
government to reconsider its decision, since the ruling demonstrated that North
Korea “is involved with terrorism.”
Darshan-Leitner acknowledged that it
was very unlikely the families would recoup the $78m. in compensatory damages
and $300m. in punitive damages awarded by the court, short of a US-North Korea
reconciliation in which restitution was part of the conditions for
rapprochement. But she said she would seek North Korean assets in the US that
could be seized and other means of obtaining some of the owed money in the
Still, the ruling alone was important for the families,
according to Darshan-Leitner.
“It kind of brings closure, that someone is
now found responsible for the attack and may have to pay for the damages,” she
explained. “It’s important for them not to leave it up in the air.”
Korea expert Nicholas Szechenyi of the Washingtonbased Center for Strategic and
International Studies agreed that Pyongyang was unlikely to cough up the funds
“North Korea reactions to judgments about its behavior typically
include provocative statements and bravado,” he noted.
But he said the
judgment could still serve as an important reminder of the regime’s bad
behavior, even if it alone didn’t cause the US to redesignate it.
could see increased calls for putting North Korea back on the terror list,” he
“It’s another example of how North Korea has tormented the
international community, and I think it’s important in that
Szechenyi said the sanctions would likely also lead to more
North Korean bluster, but that they could nonetheless seriously affect the
regime and even encourage it to back down.
“One thing North Korea needs
to [continue] its nuclear program and other illicit actions is hard
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the
sanctions during a trip to South Korea along with US Secretary of
Gates, who presented a united stance with Seoul.
Gates said the
intended “to send a strong signal to the North, to the region and to the
that our commitment to South Korea’s security is steadfast.”
our military alliance has never been stronger and should deter any
aggressor,” he said.AP contributed to this report.