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New Litigation for Airport Massacre Advocates

WASHINGTON (CN) - A nonprofit's defamatory acts are undermining the hard-fought settlement between advocates for victims of terrorism, an attorney told a federal judge.

Joshua Ambush lobbed the claims in a lawsuit Friday against the American Center for Civil Justice (ACCJ) and its affiliates and representatives.

The roots of the dispute trace back to the $1.8 billion settlement Libya reached in 2008 with victims of a 1972 terrorist attack on Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

On May 30, 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army, recruited by Palestinian radicals, used submachine guns and grenades to fire into a crowd of airline passengers at Lod, which is now known as Ben Gurion International Airport.

Ambush says he represented the victims and their families in the case against Libya and that he was under the impression that ACCJ would cover his attorney fees.

Noting that the ACCJ sued him in 2009, Ambush says the "sham" organization sought "to gain control and management of all aspects of the settlement."

"ACCJ's goal was to usurp Ambush, maximize its own compensation and completely block the payment of any compensation to Ambush," Ambush claims.

When Ambush and the ACCJ reached a settlement of this dispute in 2012, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington dismissed the case.

Friedman cited that dismissal as depriving the court of jurisdiction last year when Ambush asked him to enforce the settlement.

Ambush's new federal complaint against the ACCJ, which he seeks to have Judge Friedman preside over, says their 2012 settlement barred the ACCJ from interfering with his claims for fees.

"The very purpose of the settlement agreement was to put an end to the settling defendants campaign to defame plaintiff and their efforts to steal his clients and turn them against him," the 76-page complaint states. "Since the execution of the settlement agreement, despite the clear language prohibiting such action, all defendants have committed and continue to commit additional tortious conduct against plaintiff."

Ambush says the ACCJ tried to "circumvent" the settlement by having an attorney it hired place "a provocative and defamatory full page advertisement in the major newspaper in Puerto Rico, El Nuevo Día."

"A defamatory and disparaging news article accompanied the advertisement," which the ACCJ admits it hired an attorney to place, according to the complaint.

Ambush says the ad represented "a blatant effort to sabotage the entire course of conduct and payment process."

The ad appeared "at the precise moment that [the ACCJ] knew Ambush was on his way to Puerto Rico to serve subpoenas on his clients," according to the complaint.

Puerto Rican tourists waiting for their luggage to begin a pilgrimage were among the 24 fatalities and 78 injured at the 1972 Lod Airport massacre.

A federal jury in Puerto Rico later found that Ambush had secured his clients' consent to retainer agreements by deceit, or dolo as it is known in Spanish.

The First Circuit upheld that verdict and ordered Ambush to pay $1 million in restitution in 2013.

Ambush says ACCJ's advertisement caused members of victims' families to sue him for attorney fees after he delivered their settlement agreements.

Insisting that the whole family never approved of the decision, the attorney claims that the family member who fired him received an illegal 1.5 percent increase in her portion of the settlement from ACCJ in exchange for cutting Ambush loose.

Ambush says ACCJ and its representatives violated federal anti-racketeering law in their scheme to defraud and exclude him.

He seeks upwards of $40 million for breach of settlement agreement and RICO violations.

Ambush's attorney, Angel Sosa of Toro, Colon, Mullet, Rivera and Sifre, did not respond to request for comment.

Charles Both, who represented ACCJ in its 2009 case against Ambush, did not respond to a request for comment.

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