U.S. court awards $48 million to victim of Palestinian terrorism
Moshe Saperstein's attorney says he'll work to identify potential Palestinian assets to satisfy the judgment.
A man with dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship injured in a February 2002 terrorist attack was awarded $48 million in damages Wednesday by a federal jury in his lawsuit claiming the attack was backed by the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization.
After the Palestinian defendants defaulted by not defending themselves, a federal jury heard evidence this week in the case and returned a verdict of $16 million.
But under a law permitting U.S. citizens to sue organizations involved in overseas terrorism, that amount will likely be tripled to $48 million. U.S. Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff asked attorneys in the case to file a proposed judgment order taking the higher amount into account.
Moshe Saperstein claimed that the Palestinian Authority, which governs the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, and the PLO were complicit in the attack against him in the Gaza Strip.
According to court documents, Saperstein was attacked by gunmen who sprayed his car with AK-47 rounds, wounding him in the hand. Saperstein attempted to run down one of the attackers with his car.
An Israeli citizen traveling in a separate car, lawyer Ahuva Amergi, died in the attack, as did two Israeli soldiers who responded to the gunfire. One of the gunmen was also killed and two were apprehended, with the attack ultimately blamed on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
"Justice is served," said Saperstein's wife, Rachel Saperstein. "Now, the fight begins."
The Sapersteins' attorney, Robert Josefsberg, said he will work to identify potential Palestinian assets in the United States, Israel and elsewhere to satisfy the judgment.
"We're going to look at every possibility," Josefsberg said.
Lawyers for the Palestinian organizations did contest the lawsuit on procedural grounds - including a claim that the Palestinian Authority and PLO were immune as a sovereign state - but withdrew after losing those rounds, leading to the default judgment.
One of those lawyers was former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Attempts to reach Clark and his partner, Lawrence W. Schilling, by telephone Wednesday were not successful.
A PLO spokesman in Washington, Nabil Abuznaid, said there are about 10 other similar lawsuits pending in the United States. Abuznaid said the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a war that should not be fought in American courtrooms.
"It's unfair and unfortunate. These are political situations and they should not come with judgments like that. These are situations outside this country in a war," said Abuznaid, deputy chief of the PLO mission in Washington.