- The Washington Times - Monday, July 19, 2010

A federal court has found North Korea guilty of aiding terrorists and has fined Pyongyang $300 million in connection with a 1972 terrorist attack in Israel.

However, it is unlikely North Korea’s totalitarian regime will recognize the U.S. court’s decision and pay the fine.

“North Korea’s demonstrated and well-known policy to encourage, support and direct a campaign of murder against civilians amply justifies the imposition of punitive damages against it,” Judge Francisco A. Besosa of the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico said in a ruling Friday.

Noting that North Korea’s “budget for the export of terrorism is not known,” Judge Besosa said the court would adopt the “typical punitive damages award of $300 million.”

The lawsuit was filed by the family of Carmelo Calderon-Molina, a U.S. citizen who was killed in the attack at Lod Airport, now known as Ben-Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv.

Mr. Calderon-Molina died trying to protect a pregnant woman. Another U.S. citizen, Pablo Tirado-Ayala, was injured in the May 30, 1972, attack.

The attack was carried out by the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) with material support from North Korea and North Korea’s Cabinet General Intelligence Bureau.

Mr. Calderon-Molina and Mr. Tirado-Ayala were among a group of Puerto Ricans who had traveled to Israel on a pilgrimage of Christian religious sites.

Three JRA members, who had arrived at Lod Airport from Italy, took automatic weapons and grenades from their luggage and began shooting into the crowd at the terminal.

Twenty-six people were killed and more than 80 wounded in the attack.

Two of the terrorists were killed by self-inflicted wounds; a third, Kozo Okamoto, was overpowered by an airport employee.

During interrogations by Israeli authorities, Okamoto admitted that he and his fellow attackers were JRA members and the attack had been carried out in conjunction with the PFLP.

Okamato was convicted in an Israeli court and received a life sentence. He was freed in 1985 as part of a prisoner release, and is believed to be living in Lebanon.

Bruce Bechtol, a professor of international relations at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, served as an expert witness in the case.

“The evidence was overwhelming,” Mr. Bechtol said in a phone interview. “A lot of this was about closure for the families, and accountability. This is just the beginning.”

Families of dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who were killed or injured in Hezbollah attacks on Israel in 2006 also have filed a lawsuit against North Korea.

“This suit is being brought against North Korea because it built the tunnels and the underground facilities for Hezbollah that enabled it to attack Israel during the 2006 war, and because North Korea also supplied them with the rockets that they used,” Mr. Bechtol said.

He said the 1972 case is important because it set a precedent, but the 2006 case is even more important because it shows that North Korea continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

North Korea did not defend itself in the case, and repeated attempts by The Washington Times to contact the North’s mission to the United Nations in New York went unanswered on Monday.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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