A jury in the US has ordered Palestinian authorities to pay millions in compensation to American families for providing material support to terrorists. The case stems from attacks in Israel more than a decade ago.
The New York jury on Monday found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to have provided material support to terrorists involved in six separate bombing and shooting attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004. The attacks left 33 people dead and hundreds wounded (archive picture from one of the attacks, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, shown above).
The jury in Manhattan ordered the organizations to pay the 10 American families involved in the civil case a total of at least $218.5 million (192.6 million euros) in compensation. That sum could be tripled under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.
“Now the PLO and the PA know there is a price for supporting terrorism,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the Reuters news agency in an interview following the verdict.
Damages sought in US courts
Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Kent Yalowitz, welcomed the verdict despite it being more than $100 million short of what had been sought.
“This is a great day for our country, it’s a great day for those who fight terror, we’re so proud of our families who stood up,” Yalowitz told reporters.
The case is one of several in which Americans are turning to US courts to seek damages after becoming victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The attacks in this case were attributed to Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, but lawyers for the plaintiffs cited records showing the attackers were kept on Palestinian Authority payrolls and that benefits were paid to the families of those who died committing the attacks.
It remained unclear if and how the defendants would pay, but Darshan-Leitner said the Palestinian Authority’s assets in the US and Israel would be targeted.
Palestinians to appeal
It was expected that the PLO and PA would appeal the verdict.
“The charges that were made against us are baseless,” Palestinian Deputy Minister of Information Mahmoud Khalifa said in a statement, adding that the case was politically motivated towards blocking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Defense lawyers had argued that the perpetrators carried out the attacks independently.
“There is no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence,” defense lawyer Mark Rochon had earlier told the court. “What they [the attackers] did, they did for their own reasons… not the Palestinian Authority’s,” Rochon had said. The case had languished for years in the courts as defense attorneys challenged the court’s jurisdiction.
Last year a jury in Brooklyn found that the Jordan-based Arab Bank was liable for providing material support to Hamas, which has been blacklisted in the US as a terror organization.
The case comes as the International Criminal Court works through a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.
source: Deutsche Welle