A Portland attorney’s interviews with surviving terrorists were crucial to a whopping $26 billion civil court ruling against Syria for simultaneous terrorist attacks in Rome and Vienna in 1985 that killed 16 people and injured more than 100 others, he said Sunday.
The approximately 25 victims and relatives involved in the Dec. 17, 1985, attacks represented by attorney Ron Jenkins of Meridian 361 International Law Group won what might be one of the largest awards in American civil court history last week when U.S. federal district court Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola determined that the terrorist attacks could not have occurred “without Syria’s direct support.”
“This is an important case,” Jenkins said Sunday. “We have been fighting since launching the litigation in 2006. The judgment is an important step toward justice for my clients, but it is not over yet.”
“We have to enforce the judgment against the assets of the [Syrian] regime. That is the next step,” Jenkins added. “That will be a major project we will be undertaking starting immediately.”
The 44-year-old Portland resident is among several attorneys representing 25 American victims of the attacks or their families who sued the Syrian government for what they called “state sponsorship and involvement in the airport massacre,” which was perpetrated by the Abu Nidal Organization. None of the victims were from Maine.
The Syrian regime has spent between $500 million and $700 million annually on terrorism-related expenditures during Abu Nidal’s active period — and more recently has supported Hezbollah and Hamas and others organizations with terrorist ties, Jenkins said.
Facciola’s judgment awards $1 billion each to the attack victims.
A specialist in handling civil claims arising from international terrorist activities, Jenkins secured confessions from a terrorist then serving a lifetime sentence in Rome and another serving life imprisonment in Vienna in 2006 or 2007, he said.
“They were very intense,” Jenkins said of the interviews. “They lasted three days each approximately. There was a lot of information and material to cover and both of them were extremely helpful to our case.”
Jenkins first became interested in international law and terrorist activities while studying at Regents College in London, he said. He lost several friends in a terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, he said. The attack killed 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground.
“For me this [work] has very significant personal meaning and I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from it,” Jenkins said.
More than 50 percent of his work time since filing the lawsuit has been devoted to this case, Jenkins said. Attorneys from the Washington, D.C., law firms of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, and the Perles Law Firm served as case co-counsels.
“They were my case partners. They were with me every step of the way and we do other work together,” Jenkins said. “I trust them completely and we work very well together. They were absolutely an integral part of the team.”
Jenkins expressed optimism that he could compel Syria to comply with the judgment. He is counsel to five pending cases involving six terrorist attacks by two organizations, including al-Qaida in Iraq. The Syrian government sponsored all of the attacks, Jenkins said.
“We have an established track record collecting on judgments of this kind. I am optimistic we will be successful in this case as well,” he said.
Follow BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. on Twitter at @NickSam2BDN.