Yesterday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the PLO must pay One Million Shekels, roughly U.S. $300,000, in damages to the estates of two American victims of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. Shurat HaDin represented the families in this twenty-year landmark case.

The Italian cruise ship S.S. Achille Lauro was hijacked by three terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) on October 7, 1985, in one of the most horrific crimes of the decade: the seajacking was part of a larger plot to perpetrate a catastrophic attack in Israel, seized the ship as it sailed from Alexandria to Ashdod. Once in control of the ship, the terrorists targeted the Jewish passengers, severely beating several of them and kept them hostage, including the plaintiffs, Sophie Chasser and Anna Schneider. The terrorists shot and killed Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American confined to a wheelchair, and then thrown overboard. The entire operation was masterminded by Abu Abbas, the PLF commander. Abbas was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee and a member of the decision-making inner circle of the Palestinian leadership. The Executive Committee greenlit operations, including those proposed by Abbas. This established PLO liability for the horrific act of piracy and murder at sea.

The PLO’s defense attorneys claimed that since the PLF carried out the attack, the PLO was not responsible for the terror at sea. But this argument was soundly debunked by Dr. David Pollock, a Ph.D. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Pollack has top-level security clearance with access to classified material and who has worked as a Middle Eastern analyst for a U.S. government agency, and who was the plaintiff’s expert witness. Dr. Pollack provided a forensic explanation of the PLO’s inner workings, and how Abbas and the PLF acted as an integral part of the PLO in all their terror activities. According to all accepted statutes of international and maritime law, this alone establishes PLO complicity and guilt for the seajacking and subsequent murder. The court agreed.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin’s president and founder, said of the judgment, “We are very proud of our legal effort and the message it sends. [We] will never stop pursuing those who target Jews or perpetrate violence against our communities. ‘Never again’ means pursuing the terrorist organizations forever.”

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