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Monday, December 29, 2003
ZOA & STEPHEN FLATOW PROTEST U.S. GOV'T ATTEMPT TO PREVENT TERROR VICTIMS FROM SUING TERROR-SPONSORING REGIMES

December 29, 2003 Contact: (212) 481-1500 Attn: NEWS EDITOR

Terror Victims' Rights at Risk in U.S. Courts

ZOA & STEPHEN FLATOW PROTEST U.S. GOV'T ATTEMPT TO PREVENT TERROR VICTIMS
FROM SUING TERROR-SPONSORING REGIMES

NEW YORK The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Stephen
Flatow, father of terror victim Alisa Flatow, are deeply concerned about the
Bush administration's new attempt to prevent victims of terrorism from suing
governments that sponsor terrorism.

Officials of the State Department and Justice Department presented
arguments to this effect before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia on December 15 that would prevent victims of terror from suing
governments that sponsor terror.

In 1996, Congress passed legislation -- known as the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act and the Flatow Amendment allowing terror
victims to sue terror-sponsoring regimes, and many such lawsuits have been
filed. The law made it possible for the Flatow family to successfully sue
the government of Iran, which financed the Islamic Jihad terrorist who
murdered Alisa, age 20, in a bomb attack on a bus in Israel in 1995. Other
Americans followed with similar suits and successfully used the law against
state sponsors of terror, including Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson
and the family of Father Lawrence Martin Jenco.

Last week, State and Justice Department representatives argued in court
that the Flatow Amendment should be interpreted by the courts to allow the
victims to sue only individual foreign government officials, not the
governments themselves. If the court accepts this argument, it will
severely limit the ability of terror victims to make terror-sponsors pay for
their crimes. Morton A. Klein, National President of the Zionist
Organization of America said, "Given that U.S. citizens have been killed and
injured by terrorism perpetrated in Israel and elsewhere, and the enormous
terrorist threat that we continue to face on a daily basis, it is a sad
commentary on the state of our government that it is now acting to limit the
bases on which terror victims can obtain compensation. No lawsuit can
possibly redress the losses that terrorism inflicts on a victim and the
victim's family. But our government should be sending a message to state
sponsors of terrorism that they will be held accountable for sponsoring and
supporting terrorist acts, and that there will be a steep price to pay a
price that should serve to deter future terrorism. Instead, our government
is sending a message that, in effect, will shield terrorist states from
taking responsibility for their criminal conduct."

Susan Tuchman, Director of the ZOA's Center for Law & Justice, commented
that "the language and intent of the law is clear: to support as fully and
broadly as possible terror victims' efforts to obtain justice. The law
specifically lifts the immunity of foreign governments to suits based on
terrorist acts and specifically speaks of cases for money damages against
foreign governments. The language of the law would be rendered meaningless
if terror victims could not proceed against the foreign governments that
sponsor and support the terrorist activity. The government is trying to
undo numerous court decisions that have already held foreign governments
liable."

Stephen Flatow, the father of terror victim Alisa Flatow and a member of the
board of the ZOA's Center for Law & Justice had this to say: "Using the
provisions of the Act, our family was awarded damages against the Iranian
government and others for their role as the sponsor of the terror group that
killed my 20-year-old daughter Alisa in 1995.

Other families followed in our footsteps. What kind of signal does the
government's position in this case send? To the Iranian government, it
signifies that America's fight against terror is not as wholehearted as it
is portrayed, for while the American military acts overseas, America's civil
authorities are trying to let a member of the President's declared "Axis of
Evil" off the hook. To American victims of terror and their families, it
signifies that their government does not take seriously their losses and
their efforts to bring those accountable to the bar of justice."

===
The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest
pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen
U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the
dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on
college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice
Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.

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