February 1, 2013

Portland attorney wins $25B terrorism judgment

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Portland attorney Ron Jenkins in his Portland office: "These lawsuits which target the state sponsors are putting pressure where it belongs.”

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

The plaintiffs initially filed in 2006. The case was dismissed in 2007, when a judge ruled that because it was filed more than 10 years after the attacks, it was outside the statute of limitations.

Jenkins then persuaded Congress to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act again, after visiting lawmakers with some of the victims' families.

The act was amended in 2008 to allow the 10-year period to begin in 1996, when the law first passed, and the suit was refiled.

Todd Buonocore, who lost his brother John in the attack in Rome, said: "While we are pleased with the judgment of the court, no compensation can bring John back or allow us to spend even another second together as a family. Bashar al-Assad has slaughtered 60,000 of his own people in the last two years. My thoughts and prayers are with the Syrian people."

Attorneys from Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, and the Perles Law Firm, both of Washington, D.C., were co-counsel on the case.

Richard D. Heideman, the lead trial counsel, said in a release, "This judgment is an important statement of the Court intended to punish Syria for its past acts and serve as a deterrent against future Syrian terrorism."

Asked whether such judgments deter terrorism, K. Alexa Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California School of Law in Berkeley, said in an email: "While I'm skeptical as to whether the impact of such judgments could be measured in any meaningful way, certainly any tools that can be used to mitigate the threat of terrorism are laudable. At a minimum, such judgments send a strong symbolic message about the extent to which terrorist acts are condemned."

While noting the challenge of collecting on the judgment, Jenkins said there are advantages to suing sovereign nations.

"You know where they are, they have reputational and public relation concerns, and they typically have resources," he said. "In that sense, they are a bit of a sitting duck."

As for dealing with the Syrian leadership, he noted that President Bashar al-Assad is the son of Hafez al-Assad, who was in power at the time of the airport attacks.

"There has been a changing of the guard in that family, but it's a continuation of the regime," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he got into his area of law in part from knowing several people who were killed in the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie bombing in 1988. It is satisfying work and acts as a deterrent to terrorism, he said.

"Here you have individuals and families asserting the rule of law against the lawlessness of terrorism," Jenkins said. "It's an almost uniquely American phenomenon."

Last year, Jenkins sued Syria and Syrian Military Intelligence in connection with the 2005 bombings of three hotels in Jordan, which killed more than 60 people and injured more than 300.

In 2010, he sued Syria in connection with the assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan, in 2002, and for the kidnapping, torture and public executions of U.S. servicemen in Iraq.

Jenkins said he has several lawsuits under way representing other victims of the 1985 airport attacks whose family members came forward after the first case was filed.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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