Barghouti Refuses to Testify in US Civil Suit

Joanna Paraszczuk

Barghouti Refuses to Testify in US Civil Suit

Former Fatah leader, PA and PLO sued by family of US terror victim Esther Klieman.

The Jerusalem Post


Barghouti before entering courtroom (Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Former Fatah and al-Aqsa Brigades leader Marwan Barghouti was brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday to testify in a US civil suit filed by the family of an American terror victim.

Barghouti has been in prison since 2002 and is serving five life sentences for the murder of five people, plus an additional 40 years for attempted murder.

Esther Klieman’s family filed a civil suit in US courts in 2004, two years after 23- year-old Klieman was shot and killed by al-Aqsa Brigades terrorists. Klieman, an American citizen who lived in Neve Tzuf, taught children with Down Syndrome and was on her way to work when the terror attack took place in March 2002.

The civil lawsuit, brought under US anti-terror legislation, also names as defendants the PA; the PLO; Fatah; the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade; Fatah’s Tanzim wing; Force 17, Fatah’s former commando and special operations terror unit; Yasser Arafat; and the four terrorists responsible for the attack: Tamer Rimawi, Hussam Halabi, Anan Hashash and Ahmed Barghouti.

Rimawi, Halabi and Ahmed Barghouti are in prison, but Hashash remains at large.

The lawsuit claims that Barghouti, the PLO and PA “solicited, encouraged, permitted and advised” the other defendants to commit the terrorist act that killed Klieman.

The Klieman vs PLO and PA lawsuit is ongoing in the Washington, D.C. District Court, Israeli authorities permitted Barghouti to testify via video link in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, supervised by retired judge Yaakov Bezalel.

The Klieman family are represented in the US by Washington- based law firm Heideman, Nudelman and Kalik PC, which specializes in bringing claims on behalf of terror victims, and in Israel by attorneys Michael Dvorin and Mordechai Heller.

Dvorin told The Jerusalem Post that Wednesday’s deposition hearing was intended to obtain testimony from Barghouti regarding the connection between the PLO, PA and the al-Aqsa Brigades and Tanzim, how they perpetrated terror attacks, and to show Barghouti’s key role.

Barghouti refused on Wednesday to give testimony, saying that he does not recognize the authority of the Israeli court.

Before entering the courtroom, Barghouti, who has been in prison since 2002, was permitted to make a statement to reporters in which he said Israel should withdraw to pre-1967 borders to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

The convicted terrorist also said he supported the events of the Arab Spring, whose consequences he said would be “good for the Palestinians and will result in increased support for the Palestinians.”

Barghouti also said that he might run in the PA elections.

Following Barghouti’s statement outside the courtroom, terror victim Zion Suweri called on Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to order an investigation against the Prison Service as to why Barghouti was permitted to be interviewed by the media.

Suweri’s son Doron, daughter Sharon Ben-Shalom and son-in-law Yaniv Ben-Shalom were all murdered in a terrorist shooting attack on Road 443 in August 2001, for which Barghouti was deemed responsible. Ahmed Barghouti, one of the terrorists named in the lawsuit, was also considered responsible for the attack.

The Almagor Terror Victims Association, which petitioned Aharonovitch on behalf of Suweri, asked the Minister why the Prison Service guards who brought Barghouti to the courtroom did not prevent him from giving a lengthy media interview, as is standard practice for other convicted criminals.

Wednesday’s deposition hearing follows failed efforts by both the PA and PLO to dismiss the civil lawsuit on the grounds that US courts do not have jurisdiction over the two organizations. However, US District judge Paul L.

Friedman found that since both organizations have offices and bank accounts, and a multi-million dollar contract with a lobbying company in Washington paid for by the PA’s Ministry of Finance, they are eligible to be sued in US courts.

“The PLO and PA purposely engaged in numerous activities that resulted in both entities having a continuous and systematic presence within the United States,” Friedman noted in a recent hearing that gave the Klieman case approval to proceed to trial in the US District Court.

The PLO, PA and Barghouti also argued that the machine attack on the bus should not be considered an act of terror, but rather an “act of war carried out as part of the ongoing armed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The judge dismissed this argument.

The next stage of the deposition will include additional testimonies, including from expert witnesses.