Terror victims win battle with Israel to keep Bank of China case before more favorable US judge By YONAH JEREMY BOB JPost 06/01/2014
The civil damages case is in connection to attacks carried out against Americans in Israel between 2003 and 2008. The Wultz family has won a procedural victory that could prove decisive in their civil damages case against the Bank of China for alleged connections with the financing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist attacks. The lawsuits are in connection to attacks carried out against Americans in Israel between 2003 and 2008.
The bottom-line on the actual decision handed down late Friday, and as yet unreported elsewhere, by Washington DC Federal Court Judge Reggie Walton, was that he would not decide whether the case’s key witness, former Israeli government agent Uzi Shaya, would need to testify in the case, but would leave that decision to New York federal court Judge Shira Scheindlin.
The decision is potentially huge, as the Israeli government and the bank had fought with all of their might to keep this issue in Washington DC, knowing that Judge Scheindlin has essentially already ordered Shaya to testify. Shaya’s testimony could break the case open for the Wultz’s (who filed the case on behalf of their murdered son Daniel) and for 22 other American victims’ families represented by NGO Shurat Hadin.
This could seriously concern China, and therefore, seriously concern the Israeli government which (despite alleged promises to help the victims) has turned against the case. The plaintiffs allege that Israel turned against the case in mid-November 2013 to maintain Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s past state visit to China and out of concern of business interests with China, while the PMO has said that its reasons for blocking Shaya from testifying relate to preserving classified national security information and international cooperation in fighting terror financing.
Procedurally, Israel had argued that certain rules about which court hears a case mandated that Walton hear the case and that the plaintiffs had not properly communicated with Israel about Shaya’s testimony. Walton rejected these procedural arguments saying that Israel’s arguments were based on old rules which have been amended, eliminating Israel’s procedural arguments.
Going further in his opinion, Walton wrote, “Due to the highly complex and intricate nature of the underlying litigation, Judge Scheindlin is in a better position to rule on the intervenors’ motion to quash or modify the subpoena due to her familiarity with the full scope of issues involved.” He added, “Any ruling by this Court will inevitably disrupt Judge Scheindlin’s management of the two highly complex actions currently pending in her court,” as well as impact other related actions pending in New York “about which this court has even less familiarity.”
The plaintiffs says that for years they had expected Shaya to testify to facts already specified in a court affidavit, by former Israeli government agent Shlomo Matalon, that Israel gave the bank notice in 2005 of certain clients’ accounts being used by terror groups to launder funds for terror operations – until Israel, with an affidavit by former national security council head Yaacov Amidror suddenly opposed Shaya testifying. Following Walton’s ruling, Israel and the bank will need to decide whether to convince Scheindlin to change her mind about Shaya testifying, testify or even be held in contempt, which could create friction in the US-Israel diplomatic relationship.