On December 17, 1985, machine gun fire and hand grenades shattered the travel plans of over 100 holiday travelers at airports in Rome and Vienna. 16 were killed and over 100 more were injured after gunmen associated with the ruthless Abu Nidal Organization sprayed the crowd with bullets. 28 years later, justice was done as U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola ruled that Syria owed the victims each $1 billion, which includes damages as well as interest. The recovery of over $25 billion, by attorneys led by U.S. firm Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, may have set a new record.
That day, four terrorists entered the airport in Rome and cruelly gunned down men, women, and children waiting to check in for their flights at the El Al and TWA ticket counters. The terrorists targeted El Al and TWA for their symbolic representation of Israel and the United States. Simultaneously, in Vienna, four terrorists executed a coordinated, murderous attack on civilians in the Schwechat Airport.
Terrorism is a difficult enemy to conquer because it operates without borders and flags, but often times nations sponsor terrorists to execute their murderous agenda, while denying responsibility for the atrocities. But who can risk their safety and livlihood to follow the trail of clues and identify the state sponsors of terror? In 2006, an international team of lawyers set out to do just that.
In 2006, Ron Jenkins of Meridian 361 International Law Group PLLC, Richard D. Heideman, Noel J. Nudelman, and Tracy Reichman Kalik of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik PC, and Steven R. Perles of the Perles Law Firm PC, sued the Syrian Arab Republic, Syrian Air Force Intelligence, and General Muhammed Al-Khuli for their state sponsorship and involvement in the airport massacre.
Judge John M. Facciola, presiding over the case in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., said, “The Rome and Vienna Airport attacks could not have taken place without Syria’s direct support.” The courts decision highlights how united America is in its opposition to the ruling regime in Syria. Every facet of American society is mobilized in an effort to depose this dictator in a rare showing of solidarity. This $25 billion bill just adds one more piece to Bashar Al-Assad's worry plate. It is hard to say how this latest defeat for Syria will influence their thinking, but at $25 billion, someone in Damascus must be worried.
Attorney Jenkins noted that “The authoritarian Syrian regime has spent between $500,000,000 and $700,000,000 annually on terrorism...supporting the Abu Nidal Organization...and more recently Hezbollah and Hamas and others."
Richard D. Heideman, lead trial counsel, added that “As a state sponsor of terror subject to jurisdiction in the U.S. courts, Syria deserves to be singled out for their sponsorship of heinous acts of murder...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. We trust that the Court’s decision will provide some measure of justice for the victims of terrorism who lost life, limbs and loved ones.”
State sponsors of terror must be watching the headlines wondering if they're safe from these global teams of brave lawyers that are ready to wage law.