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Bennett v. Islamic Republic of Iran

August 30, 2007

MICHAEL BENNETT, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BACKGROUND

These actions arise from the July 31, 2002 bombing of the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra Building on the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. Plaintiffs allege that the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran"), and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security ("MOIS"), are jointly and severally liable for damages from the attack because they provided material support and assistance to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that orchestrated and carried out the bombing. Plaintiffs have relied upon causes of action founded upon provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), inter alia, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 2, 2003, plaintiffs filed their Complaint with this Court, in which they sought redress for their losses under the FSIA. Plaintiffs made various attempts at serving the defendants with process, as prescribed under the FSIA. See 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a). Upon request of the plaintiffs, default was entered by the Clerk of this Court against defendant Iran on March 23, 2004, and against defendant MOIS on April 19, 2006, after plaintiffs established proof of service of process on both defendants through diplomatic channels, and neither defendant responded within the prescribed time.

On March 12 and 13 of this year, an evidentiary hearing was held by this Court as to the defendants' involvement in the attack. Based on all of the evidence presented to the Court at the hearing, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. Consistent with these findings and conclusions, the Court will enter default judgment in favor of plaintiffs, and against defendants Iran and MOIS.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. The plaintiffs, Linda Bennett and Michael Bennett are the parents of the decedent, Marla Bennett. The plaintiffs are residents of and domiciliaries of the State of California, and were residents of California at the time of the attack.

2. Plaintiffs bring this action in their capacities as co-administrators of the Estate of Marla Bennett, and on their own behalf having suffered damages through the intentional infliction of emotional distress upon them, as well as on behalf of Lisa Bennett (surviving sister of Marla Bennett), and Florence Ackerman (maternal grandmother of Marla Bennett).

3. Marla Bennett was born on April 5, 1978, in San Diego, California, United States of America, and was at birth and remained until her death, a citizen of the United States and domiciliary of California.

4. Marla Bennett was a graduate of the University of California at Berkley, and was a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at its Mount Scopus facility in Jerusalem, Israel in a program designed to educate persons for entry into the field of Jewish religious education at the time of her death on July 31, 2002.

5. Marla Bennett had increasingly become interested in pursuing a life in Jewish religious education throughout her years as a student at the University of California. She had spent her junior year of college in Israel as part of her University of California studies.

6. Muhammad Uda ("Uda") was in 2002 an employee of a firm which had contracted with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to act in a maintenance function in care of the physical facilities at the University. In 2002, Uda had been so employed in this capacity for more than 6 years by 2002. Unknown to the University, Uda had become a member of Hamas, a terrorist group also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement.

7. Uda lived in a suburb of Jerusalem called Silwan. By July 2002, activities of the small segment of Hamas known as the Silwan Gang, of which Muhammad Uda was a member, had come to the attention of the Israeli National Police. At the time, Uda had not yet been identified by the Israeli National Police as a member of the Silwan Gang.

8. In the months around July 2002, Uda suggested the Hebrew University as a possible bomb target for the Silwan Gang to strike. The gang agreed with Uda's suggestion, and selected the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra Building as the point of attack.

9. The Silwan Gang then involved Ibrahim Hamed ("Hamed"), a Hamas leader, who in turn gave the go ahead to the attack plan with the instruction that it was to be carried out in such a manner as to avoid injury to Arab students at the Hebrew University. In order to abide by this condition, the decision was made to carry out the attack at a time between regular educational sessions at a time when most of the regular student body would be absent. Such a time came in late July when most of the people who would be in the Cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra Building would be members of the international program. As a result, most of the persons present during this time would be Americans.

10. The bomb was constructed by an Hamas operative and passed to Uda over a fence near the edge of the University by an Hamas associate. On July 28, 2002, Uda placed the bomb in the cafeteria. Uda then left the school and attempted to trigger the mechanism from a few blocks away, but the trigger failed. Uda then recovered the device and it was repaired.

11. On July 30, 2002, the bomb was again passed over the fence to Uda and kept in a storage shed until the next day when it was again positioned in the cafeteria in the Frank Sinatra Building. The explosive charge was surrounded by pieces of metal including bolts.

12. Just after 1:00 p.m. on July 31, 2002, Marla Bennett entered the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra Building for lunch. After obtaining a bowl of soup she sat down at a table opposite Ari Joseph, an accountant at the school. Mr. Joseph testified that he bent over toward his bowl of soup and the world "turned black." He was blown over backwards by the explosion. He couldn't see and there seemed to be dead silence.

13. Hamas, the popular name for the Islamic Resistance Movement, is an organization supported by The Islamic Republic Of Iran, dedicated to the waging of Jihad, or a holy war employing terrorism with the object of seizing the leadership of the Palestinian people and asserting sovereignty and the rule of the Muslim religion over all of Palestine, including all territory of the State of Israel.

14. Hamas immediately claimed credit for the attack on the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra Building, and there is no ...


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