A federal jury awarded $16 million to a Jewish man who claimed that Palestinian groups backed a terrorist attack in Israel in which he was injured, but he could get triple that amount under a law allowing U.S. citizens to sue organizations involved in overseas terrorism.Moshe Saperstein was attacked in February 2002 by gunmen who sprayed his car with AK-47 rounds, wounding him in the hand, according to court documents. Saperstein, who has dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, claimed that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were complicit in the attack.
An Israeli traveling in a separate car died in the attack, as did two Israeli soldiers who responded to the gunfire. One gunman was killed and two were apprehended, with the attack ultimately blamed on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
The Palestinian groups were accused of organizing, facilitating and sponsoring attacks against Jewish civilians in Israel and parts of the West Bank.
After the Palestinian defendants defaulted by not defending themselves, a federal jury heard evidence this week and returned the $16 million verdict. But under the overseas terrorism law, that amount will likely be tripled to $48 million.
“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.
Lawyers for the Palestinian groups 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.
Attempts to reach the lawyers, former state Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Lawrence W. Schilling, were not successful.
About 10 similar lawsuits are pending in the United States, said Nabil Abuznaid, a PLO spokesman in Washington.