(CN) – A federal judge found Iran responsible for aiding Hamas in carrying out a triple-suicide bombing in downtown Jerusalem that killed five people, including a 14-year-old girl, and awarded the girl’s family $1.7 million in damages.
On September 4, 1997, three suicide bombers entered a mall in downtown Jerusalem, Israel, and detonated bombs filled with nails, glass shards and chemical poisons.
The explosion wounded nearly 200 people, and killed five, including 14-year-old Yael Botvin, who was a U.S. citizen. Afterwards, Hamas, the Palestinian political party that now governs the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack.
In a lawsuit in the D.C. District Court, Yael’s mother Julie Goldberg-Botvin and sisters Tamar and Michal Botvin sought to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iran Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) responsible for Hamas’ attack.
In her deposition, Goldberg-Botvin spoke about the impact Yael’s death still has on the family: “We might look okay on the outside, but on the inside we are not okay, even ten years later. For me, it’s terrible to see Yael’s friends who are now 24, 25 years old, and married and some of them have babies. It is very difficult.”
In finding Iran liable for Botvin’s death, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth took judicial notice of evidence presented in a similar case, Campuzano v. Islamic Republic of Iran, in which Rueven Paz, the former head of the Israeli General Security Service’s Department of Research, testified that “Iran was ‘encouraging and pushing’ Hamas’ leaders to carry out suicide bombings as a policy, and that policy ‘was approved by the highest authorities in Iran,'” according to the judgment.
In that case, Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iranian support for terrorism, testified that in the 1990s Iran annually provided Hamas between $25 million and $50 million in support.
Taking notice of the Campuzano factual conclusions, Lamberth ruled that, “the facts in the record therefore conclusively show that defendants Iran, MOIS, and IRG aided and counseled Hamas in conducting terrorist attacks in general, and the attack that killed Yael Botvin specifically. It is also clear from these facts that Iran could reasonably foresee the consequences of Hamas’s violent intentions – Hamas is, after all, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. The court therefore concludes that these acts are sufficient to establish Iran, MOIS, and IRG’s liability for aiding or abetting Hamas’s tortious acts.”
The judge awarded Yael’s family $1.7 million for wrongful death, but did not award emotional damages because such damages are not available under Israeli law.
Lamberth said it was a sad inconsistency that “the family members of Yael Botvin receive no solatium compensation while family members of victims in the earlier Campuzano decision received millions of dollars in solatium compensation.” Campuzano was decided until U.S. law, rather than Israeli law, which provides a claim for emotional damages.
“This Court hopes that the family members may take some measure of solace in this Court’s final judgment and in the $1.7 million in compensatory damages awarded to the Estate of Yael Botvin,” the judge concluded.