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February 17, 2011 – NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER has dedicated her life to fighting terrorism her way: using courts around the world to bankrupt terrorist organisations and disrupt the flow of funds from rogue states.
Now the Israeli lawyer says she wants to go after the Bali bombers and the organisations that bankrolled them.
Ms Darshan-Leitner says her Israel Law Centre has collected $120 million for victims of terrorism, put liens on $600 million more and won judgments for more than $1 billion against groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the governments of Iran and North Korea, and several banks.
Ms Darshan-Leitner, who is in Australia to raise money for her centre's work, says there is scope for the victims' families and the survivors of the Bali bombings to launch civil action against the terrorists and their backers.
"We want to make Australians aware that it is possible to go after the banks that provide financial services to terror organisations," she said. She believes the judicial process is the most potent weapon against terrorism because "if you can stop the flow of money, you can stop the attacks".
The non-profit legal centre is modelled on the Southern Poverty Law Centre in Alabama, which bankrupted white-supremacist groups through civil suits.
While freezing the assets of terrorist groups and rogue states in Western countries disrupts their ability to launch terrorist attacks, she says the legal action is also aimed at getting justice for victims.
Tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation to hundreds of victims, mostly in judgments handed down in US courts against Iran, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
"It's not money that can bring back life or heal wounds or put together legs that were blown up, but it's a measure of accountability and justice – to have them pay for what they did," Ms Darshan-Leitner said.
Under US law, plaintiffs can pursue both foreign governments identified as sponsors of terrorism and financial institutions who process transactions or hold bank accounts for terrorist groups or their associated charities.
Recently the centre won a $378 million judgment against North Korea for funding and supporting the terrorists who killed 26 people at Israel's Lod airport in 1972.
As 17 of the victims were pilgrims from Puerto Rico, which is linked to the US justice system, the claim was heard by a San Juan court.
However, North Korea does not honour verdicts from other states, so the centre is tracking down its foreign assets, which, once identified, will be pursued by lawyers in those countries.
In a case against the Iranian government, the centre has filed motions in a Texas court to collect on proceeds of the sale of a home once owned by the shah of Iran.