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Family wins $323 million against Iran, Syria over terrorist attack

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Updated at 6 p.m. ET: A Weston, Fla., family has won a landmark $323 million court decision against Iran and Syria, six years after their son was killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv. When they’ll see the money is another matter.

A U.S. federal judge awarded Tuly and Cheryl Wultz the judgment against Iran for financially supporting the Islamic Jihad movement and Syria for allowing the group to train in its territory. The lawsuit was filed by an Israeli advocacy group on behalf of the family. The award includes $300 million in punitive damages.

Tuly Wultz remembers like it was yesterday how the terrorist looked moments before the April 17, 2006, blast that killed his son, Daniel, when they were vacationing in Israel. They were having lunch in Tel Aviv when the suicide bomber approached, standing 2 feet away from Daniel Wultz, 16.

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“I tried to jump on Daniel but he already detonated and the bomb was over 40 pounds of explosives,” Tuly Wultz recalled in an interview with NBC Miami. He was severely injured, and his son and 10 other people were killed in the attack by an Islamic Jihad militant.

“My heart is still bleeding for Daniel. I’ll never be recovered from that,” the father said.

Daniel Wultz died from his injuries on May 14, 2006.

On Monday, the sixth anniversary of his death, his parents received word of the court victory.

Wultz Attorney Robert Tolchin told msnbc.com that with the court judgment in hand his clients can seek Iranian and Syrian assets to collect the award.

Tolchin said he couldn’t be specific, but he would explore “various avenues.”

“There is a lot of litigation by people seeking the turnover of Iranian assets,” Tolchin said. “The Iranians have kept U.S. courts busy.”

The case was brought under a special provision of federal law that allows U.S. citizens to take court actions against foreign states providing support for terrorism.

As in the Wultz case, Iran often does not fight against a judgment, but hires major U.S. firms to fight the collection of the award, Tolchin said.

Syria, on the other hand, did fight the claim and was represented in court by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

"This is a sad result following from a tragic incident," Clark told msnbc.com. "Compensation should come from persons clearly responsible who committed the act. The idea that you can become a multimillionaire by getting some friend or relative killed is not terribly healthy."

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Clark said he defended Syria only over the issue of it being a sovereign state that should face the same protection from lawsuits as all states, which are considered equal under United Nations principles.

There were no facts to support the idea that Syria or Iran were present or had advance knowledge of the Tel Aviv bombing, Clark said.

He took issue with the federal law that allows a few Americans injured by terrorist acts to be paid “a lot of money” when thousands more, especially soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, cannot have the same access to compensation when they are hurt by roadside bombs or in other non-combat attacks.  

"Iran and Syria are foreign states with substantial wealth and that have expended significant resources sponsoring terrorism," wrote Judge Royce C. Lamberth in his ruling.

"Barbaric acts like the April 17, 2006 suicide bombing have no place in civilized society and represent a moral depravity that knows no bounds."

The Wultzes say they are pleased with the decision, which they say is just one step towards justice and a way to ensure their son’s death was not in vain.

“This judgment was important because it’s the first time that there’s a judgment that concerns terrorism against Syria,” Cheryl Wultz said.

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