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Sunday, April 16, 2006

MIA Baumel's Family Sues Syria

The family of Zecharia Baumel, who has been missing in action for twenty-four years since his tank was captured in the Battle of Sultan Yaqub, has sued the government of Syria in a United States federal court, alleging that the Syrians have been wrongfully holding Baumel since that time.

“Over the years, a wealth of information has accrued that the Syrian Government is directly responsible in this case,” said Yona Baumel, Zecharia’s father. “Our aim is not to obtain a financial judgment, but to get access to the MIAs. By hitting the Syrians were it hurts, in their pocketbooks, we hope to obtain positive results where all other methods have failed."

In addition to naming Syria, the lawsuit also specifically names Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, foreign minister Farouq al-Shaara, and former Syrian defense minister Moustapha Tlaas.

“The message that we are sending the Syrians is that this case will not fade away with time,” said Dr. Stuart Ditchek, a friend of the Baumels who grew up with Zecharia in Brooklyn before the Baumels made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel); he is the one bringing the suit in the US, as Baumel's legal "next friend."

“We will see an end to this illegal behavior through cooperation or by force," Ditchek said. "Civil litigation is only the beginning. Once Assad is out of office, we will resolve Zack's case and go after all the participants criminally as well in this 23-year cover-up.”

The lawsuit was filed in Washington, DC Federal District Court under a provision in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which allows foreign states designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism to be sued in US courts for harm caused to American citizens by those countries. The lawsuit seeks a judgment against Syria, which would be collectable against its assets in the US This is the first time that the Syrian government is being sued under this statute.

The provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act have been used successfully to reach Iranian assets in terror cases.


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