Marla Bennett 224 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Iran must pay $12.9 million to the family of an American victim of the 2002 Hebrew University terror attack, a federal district judge here has ruled.
The judge, Royce Lamberth, found that Hamas, which claimed credit for the attack, "is an organization supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, dedicated to the waging of Jihad, or a holy war employing terrorism," and was responsible for the "willful and deliberate extrajudicial killing" of Marla Bennett.
"This court is cognizant of the extreme pain and suffering felt by each of the plaintiffs in this action for losing a person who, by all accounts, was a shining light of the lives of so many," Lamberth wrote in awarding Bennett's mother, father and sister the damages as compensation for their suffering and Bennett's lost income.
"The plaintiffs should be praised for their courageous and steadfast pursuit of justice through legal means. This noble effort is made even more so when contrasted with the heinous and brutishly unlawful acts undertaken by the defendants and the individuals they support," Lamberth continued in his opinion, dated August 30.
"Though it is impossible for this court to make the plaintiffs completely whole again, the court hopes that this award helps begin the healing process, and that one day the plaintiffs' hearts and minds will be mended by the fact that some measure of justice - no matter how incalculable - was done on their behalf."
"Nothing can really bring closure when you lose a child in such a vicious, senseless way," said Bennett's mother Linda, reached by telephone at her San Diego home. "It will help if we see any actual money, as far as perhaps we could do some good for other people with this judgment."
Linda Bennett was referring to two programs created after her daughter's death to which she would particularly like to see the money go. One is a charity run through the local Jewish Federation that helps Jews and non-Jews in distress, the other a fund to help students who want to go to Israel. Marla Bennett was a 24-year-old graduate student in Judaic studies when she was killed along with eight others on July 31, 2002 by a bomb placed in The Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra cafeteria.
Collecting the damages, however, will be difficult. Previous victims of terror attacks who have successfully sued Iran have sought money from frozen Iranian assets in America, but those resources are limited.
Lamberth also last Friday awarded $2.65 billion to the families of the 241 US service members killed in the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, and reports suggested that they would be seeking international holdings of Iranian funds.
Iran strongly criticized the $2.65 billion ruling this weekend. "This is a baseless decision, some US court issued a verdict without any investigation or listening to opinions from the other sides," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters here.
"The verdict is not legally defendable, and we can see the political pressure from the decision to grab Iranian assets in America." Iran did not defend itself in either case.
The Bennett's lawyer, Edward Carnot, who welcomed Lamberth's "well-reasoned judgment," wouldn't publicly discuss the family's plan for collecting the money owed to them. But he stressed, "We're going to make every effort to collect upon the judgment."
"This family suffered a tragic loss and the purpose of this case was to get some compensation for that loss," he said.
The Hebrew University also recalled that loss Tuesday, putting out a statement that it "pays tribute to the memory of Marla Bennett and all of the other victims of the terrorist attack and expresse[s] satisfaction at the decision of the court, which perhaps will ease, if only slightly, the sorrow of the family."