Iran, Syria ordered to pay terror victim's family

US court orders $332 m. for Wultz family for 16-year-old boy killed and father seriously injured in TA suicide attack.

justice court gavel ruling law 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
justice court gavel ruling law 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
Six years after 16-year-old American Daniel Wultz died of wounds he sustained in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, a US district court judge awarded his family $332 million in damages from Iran and Syria.
The court found that Iran and Syria were responsible for providing material support for the April 17, 2006, attack, in which 11 people were murdered and over 60 others wounded when an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber detonated a bomb laced with nails and other projectiles in a crowded south Tel Aviv fast food restaurant.
In his ruling, Chief Justice Royce C. Lamberth said the bombing had been a “barbaric act” that had “no place in civilized society and represents a moral depravity that knows no bounds.”
Daniel’s father Yekutiel “Tuly” Wultz, who was seriously wounded in the attack; his mother, Sheryl; and his siblings Amanda and Abraham brought the civil lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, under powerful US anti-terrorism laws that permit American civilians to sue sovereign states who sponsor acts of terror.
Via their lawyers – New York attorney Robert Tolchin and Tel Aviv attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner – the Wultz family alleged that the Syrian and Iranian governments, both of which the US has designated as state sponsors of terrorism, provided Islamic Jihad with the material support and resources it needed to carry out the deadly attack.
The court learned that Daniel had been conscious immediately after the bombing and up until his death, and had suffered extreme physical and emotional pain both because he knew the horrific extent of his injuries and because he was aware he would die from them.
The 16-year-old suffered wounds including severe bleeding from multiple shrapnel wounds, a perforated bowel and multiple infections, including gangrene.
In their fight to save his life, surgeons at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital removed several of Daniel’s organs, and amputated two fingers and part of his right leg, but the teenager succumbed to his injuries and died on May 14, 2006.
His father, who was sitting with Daniel at the time of the bombing, endured extensive physical injuries as well as severe psychological damage. He still suffers pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, including terrifying nightmares and daily flashbacks of the attack.
The other members of the Wultz family, including Daniel’s mother, suffered serious psychological and emotional damage as a result of the bombing.
In addition to Iran and Syria, the Wultz family’s lawsuit named as defendants the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, the Syrian Ministry of Defense, Syrian Military Intelligence and the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
In finding all of the plaintiffs responsible for providing the material support that led to the suicide bombing, Lamberth said the evidence established that Islamic Jihad “acted generally as an agent of the Iranian and Syrian defendants” and that “their financing, encouragement and instruction prompted [the attack].”
“When a state chooses to use terror as a policy tool – as Iran and Syria continue to do – that state forfeits its sovereign immunity and deserves unadorned condemnation,” he said in his ruling.
The ruling cites testimony from Dr. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iranian terror funding, who said Iran provided annual financial support for terror of around $300 million to $500m.
According to Clawson, in 2008 Iran provided Hezbollah with around $200m. in direct cash assistance, as well as “many tens of millions of dollars” of sophisticated weaponry, including rockets, since 2006.
Evidence presented to the court in a two-day hearing in February showed that at the time of the 2006 bombing, Islamic Jihad was headquartered in Damascus with the Syrian regime’s approval and consent, and that the Syrian government would escort potential terrorists and suicide bombers to training camps on Syrian territory.
Expert witnesses who testified in the trial said Islamic Jihad received “substantial logistical, financial and technical support from both the Iranian and Syrian defendants.”
An offshoot of Hamas, Islamic Jihad was created in 1980. Its founder, Fathi Shiqaqi, had been inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran a year previously.
Until Israel assassinated him in 1995, Shiqaqi – the first Palestinian terrorist to publish a pamphlet legitimizing suicide bombings in jihad – received funds from the Syrian intelligence services, and his successor Ramadan Shallah continues to receive funding from Iran and Syria, evidence presented to the court shows.
At the time of the 2006 terror attack, Iranian funding passed to Islamic Jihad via Syria, but after Hamas took over Gaza, Iran has been able to fund Islamic Jihad and Hamas directly, the court found.
Moreover, Iran and Syria encouraged Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror groups to use suicide bombers as a “weapon” during the second intifada, the court found, noting that Islamic Jihad was responsible for around a quarter of all suicide bombings in Israel during this time.
Islamic Jihad suicide bombers also received training from Hezbollah, which is directly funded by Iran.
“The evidence shows that [Iran and Syria] completely lacked any semblance of remorse for this deadly attack – and in fact, encouraged and supported this and similar attacks,” Lamberth said.
In closing, the judge praised the Wultz family’s courage, saying they “stood in stark contrast to the Iranian and Syrian thugs.”
The family members had “resolved to fight injustice with whatever tools were at their disposal, and their patient determination over the past six years is a credit to both themselves and the memory of their beloved Daniel,” Lamberth said.
The Wultz vs. Iran verdict is the latest in a series of US courtroom victories by victims of terror against Iran that have highlighted the extent to which the Islamic Republic funds Palestinian terror in Israel and neighboring territories.
In March, Lamberth awarded two victims of the 1983 US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut $44.6m. in damages from Iran.
In 2007, a US federal judge ruled in a separate lawsuit, Peterson vs. Iran, that Iran must pay $2.65 billion to the families of servicemen killed in the Beirut attack.
While plaintiffs in these cases have actively sought Iranian assets that could be seized to pay the court-awarded damages, they have so far been unsuccessful.
That may be about to change, as the US Senate may vote before the end of this month on a bill that would subject Iranian assets to US court jurisdiction, thereby releasing them to pay against judgements of lawsuits brought against the Islamic Republic. If the bill passes, the plaintiffs may be able to reach nearly $2b. in Iranian debt-securities, which currently sit frozen in a Citibank account in New York.
Luxembourg-based clearing house and bank Clearstream is allegedly holding the money for Iran, a matter that came to light last November after the Peterson plaintiffs sued Clearstream over the assets. Clearstream denies holding funds for Iran, while Citibank is fighting for the courts to unfreeze the $2b.