Israeli Official Quashes Subpoena in Terror Case
MANHATTAN (CN) - A former Israeli intelligence official does not need to testify for the victims of a 2006 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv allegedly supported by the Bank of China's dealings with Islamic Jihad and Hamas, a federal judge ruled.
Victims of bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians between 2005 and 2007 sued the Bank of China for processing international wire transfers Islamic Jihad and Hamas, U.S.-designated terrorist groups. The transfers allegedly continued even after the Israeli government notified officials of China's central bank that the transactions were helping the groups carry out terrorist attacks.
The family of Daniel Wultz, an American teenager who was killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2006, first filed a lawsuit against China's central bank in Washington before the case was transferred to New York.
His father, Yekutiel Wultz, survived the bombing with severe injuries, and was one of the plaintiffs.
Although they hoped to secure critical testimony by serving former Israeli national security officer Uzi Shaya with a subpoena in September, the Israeli government filed a motion to quash his testimony on the grounds that it would reveal state secrets.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who presided over the case in Manhattan, ruled last month that Shaya indeed had immunity.
Urging the judge to reconsider that decision, lawyers for the Wultz family accused the Israeli government of a "stunning personal betrayal" inspired by a "politically expedient" response to pressure from the Chinese government, in a 19-page motion for reconsideration.
Scheindlin rejected the family's protests on Wednesday, in an 8-page opinion.
She wrote that there is little evidence to support the claim that the Israeli government ever committed help provide such testimony.
"While I recognize that plaintiffs have devoted time and resources to this case and relied on Israel's purported 'commitments' to provide full cooperation - including testimony - I cannot compel Shaya to testify over Israel's valid claim of immunity," the opinion states.
The family can, however, seek Shaya's voluntary deposition for "information unrelated to acts taken or knowledge obtained in his official capacity," she added.
Lee Wolosky, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner representing the Wultz family, highlighted that silver lining in an emailed statement.
"The court provided a clear roadmap for Mr. Shaya's voluntary deposition, and we look forward to proceeding on that basis," Wolosky wrote. "Whether or not Mr. Shaya testifies, compelling evidence exists that Bank of China ignored warnings that it was providing material support to a terrorist organization. We will demonstrate at trial that it did so knowingly, despite Israeli warnings, without regard to the risk that funds transferred through its accounts would be used to kill and maim innocent civilians."