The government of North Korea, for the first time, will face charges in a United States Federal Court on Thursday for supporting terrorism against Israel. The trial will begin in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The case arose from a lawsuit brought by the families of victims of the 1972 terror attack at the Lod Airport, where 26 people were killed and 80 injured. The court complaint alleges that the government of North Korea trained and financed the terrorists who perpetrated the massacre.
Most of the victims were Catholic pilgrims from Puerto Rico who had come to visit the Holy Land for the first time. The families are represented by Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, and lawyers from New York and Puerto Rico.
In May 1972, terrorists from the Japanese Red Army (JRA), working in league with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), placed automatic weapons, ammunition and grenades in their check-in luggage on a flight from Italy to Israel.
After their bags arrived at the Israeli airport arrivals hall, they took out the weapons and opened fire in every direction, mowing down passengers, flight crew members and airport workers. They also attempted to blow up airplanes on the ground using hand grenades. Two of the three attackers were killed and a third, Kozo Okumoto, was captured, tried and sentenced to prison in Israel.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue that in the months leading up to the massacre the leaders of the JRA and PFLP met with each other and with North Korean officials, who allegedly provided funding, intelligence, training and other material support for the terrorists.
The attack was part of the JRA's declared strategy, approved by the North Korean government, of taking their anti-Western violence and plans of communist revolution to other parts of the world.
The North Korean regime has been considered responsible for helping Lebanon's Hezbollah organization to build an enormous underground bunker system that dramatically increased the terrorist group's fighting capacity in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
The U.S. State Department added North Korea to its official list of states that sponsor terror in 1988, making it possible for American victims to sue the North Korean government and collect against their assets in a U.S. court. North Korea was removed from the list late last year, but the current lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Puerto Rican families before the deadline for filing lawsuits.