Nitsana Darshan-Leitner to IMRA on collection of judgment against Syria
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA 20 December 2012
From: Dr. Aaron Lerner
Subject: $338 Million Courtroom Victory Against Syria
To: Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq.
Many ask me if there is any way you will see a penny from this judgment (see
below). Can you comment?
Reply from: Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
We have a great number of leads on Syrian government assets we are hoping to
put into action.
In addition, if the US is recognizing the Syrian opposition (whoever that
is) and Assad might fall and the State Dept. is going to be seeking to
de-list Syria as an outlaw regime that supports terror then we, and the
small group of other Syrian judgment holders, will try to insist that the
new regime be compelled to pay off the judgment debts of the previous regime
as Libya was forced to do.
We sincerely believe that Syrian judgment holders will see at least their
Shurat HaDin Wins $338M Judgment Against Syria Over Kidnapping of Americans
by Kurdish Terrorists
Washington, DC, December 17, 2012: A Tel-Aviv based law center has
represented two families of American citizens in their successful $338
million lawsuit against the government of Syria. The decision, handed down
today in the United States district court for Washington D.C., found that
the government of Syria was responsible for providing material support and
resources to the Kurdish Workers Party ("PKK"), a terrorist organization
designated by the United States State Department.
Chief District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that Syria was vicariously
liable for the PKK's 1991 kidnapping of a group of American biblical
archeologists leading an excavation in Turkey. The Americans, who were
searching to discover the location of the remains of the biblical Noah's
Ark, were held hostage for 21 days before they finally were able to escape.
The families were represented by attorneys Robert Tolchin of New York and
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel-Aviv. Darshan-Leitner is the director of the
Shurat HaDin Law Center. The Court awarded the families $38 million dollars
in compensatory damages and levied a $300 million punitive damages award
against the Syrian government as well.
Marvin Wilson and the family of the deceased Ronald Wyatt brought the
lawsuit against Syria alleging that Damascus had allowed the PKK to operate
from Syrian territory, and provided financial support and training to the
terrorist group. The civil action sought both compensation and punitive
damages from Syria.
Marvin Wilson, one of the kidnapped Americans, stressed: "The news we
received today of a successful ruling against Syria for their support of the
PKK during the time of our 1991 kidnapping in Turkey was extremely exciting!
After 12 years of anticipating that justice would be served, I hope this
ruling will serve notice and be a deterrent to others that there is a
penalty for complicity in taking American citizens as hostages. We truly
appreciate the dedication and resolve given by the Shurat HaDin - Israel Law
Center in litigating our case.”
Mary Nell Lee, the wife of the late Ronald Wyatt, added: “I am so very
grateful that the judge recognized the effects this kidnapping had on our
families. Each of our lives was changed in ways that have continued until
this day. My prayer is that all those who have suffered at the hands of
terrorists, receive compensation such as we have been awarded. While it
cannot erase the memories of the event, it can provide each person a sense
of justice and closure. Hopefully, it will have an effect on the countries
involved in supporting terrorist organizations and help them learn that they
cannot get away with such horrendous behavior.”
In Sept. 1991, Wilson and Wyatt traveled to Turkey as part of an
archeological project to excavate a site near Mount Ararat, where according
to the Old Testament, Noah’s Ark is believed to have finally found land.
Shortly after traveling near the Syrian border the Americans, along with
others, were taken hostage by armed gunmen. For the next 21 days the
captives were subjected to brutal treatment, forced 18 hour marches and
repeatedly assaulted by their PKK captors. The terrorists made ransom
demands to the Turkish and American governments.
In July 2001, plaintiffs filed a complaint against Syria pursuant to the
Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act’s terrorism exception, 28 U.S.C. § 1605A in
the U.S. district court in Washington D.C.
In today’s ruling, the Court wrote that: “the brutal character of the
kidnapping in this case, the significant harm it caused both the hostage
plaintiffs and their families, along with Syria’s demonstrated and well
known policy to encourage terrorism all merit an award of punitive damages.”
According to Darshan-Leitner: “This is a groundbreaking ruling which finds
that Syria was responsible for the crimes perpetrated by the PKK terror
organization it sponsors. This ruling also points to an underlying fact: the
free world will no longer stand idle while international crimes are
committed and it will fight against those rogue regimes which support these
heinous acts. Above all, the court found that this kidnapping was brutal and
heinous, and involved threats of execution, torture, as well as marches
through mountains and dense forests. It is therefore fitting that
compensation should be in the millions not in the tens of thousands. These
days Syria continues to commit crimes against those who oppose the regime,
and Syria will pay.”
Tolchin added: “Although the events that gave rise to this judgment took
place a number of years ago, it is remarkable how little things have
changed. Syria is still playing a proxy game creating terror, instability
and mayhem via the PKK and Hizbollah. Hopefully with this judgment Syria
will come to realize that there are financial consequences for its actions,
while at the same time bringing some measure of comfort to the Wyatt and
Wilson families for their ordeal.”
The case is called Mary Nell Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic. Civil No. 08-502
A copy of the district court opinion
A copy of the district court judgment
For more information:
Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center
10 Hata'as St., Ramat Gan 52512
US line: 212-591-0073