Israel attack victims awarded over $218 mln in PLO trial in NY

Palestinian Authority found liable over attacks in Israel more than a decade ago.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 23, 2015) (REUTERS) – A U.S. jury on Monday (February 23) ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority to pay more than $218 million (USD) for providing material support to terrorists, a victory for Americans suing over attacks in the Jerusalem area more than a decade ago.

The verdict in Manhattan federal court added a new dimension to the long-running Middle East conflict, as American victims sought to use U.S. courts to seek damages.

Jurors found in favor of 10 American families suing over six attacks attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas. The award could be tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

“This is a great day for our country. It’s a great day for those who fight terror,” said Kent Yalowitz, the attorney representing the families.

Victims and their families had requested more than $350 million, or over $1 billion after tripling, over shootings and bombings from 2002 to 2004 that killed 33 people and injured over 450.

“Now the PA, the Palestinian Authority, knows that there is a price for sending suicide bombers to our malls, to our cafes and blowing our buses up. And we will pursue and we will make sure that the PA will pay every dollar of this judgment,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, after the verdict.

“We’re going to take steps against their assets. They have assets in the United States, in Israel. We are going to go after bank accounts and money that they are getting paid on a monthly basis in Israel for instance. And we are going to put pressure on those who negotiate with them, those who have relationships with them to make sure that the Palestinian Authority respects the American law, respects the American jury ruling and pays their debt,” she added.

The PLO and the Palestinian Authority are expected to appeal, and it is unclear whether victims would ever be able to collect.

Neither defendant was immediately available to comment.

The trial began six weeks ago and was the second in less than a year in which a U.S. jury found defendants liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which lets U.S. citizens injured by acts of international terrorism pursue damages in federal court.

“It’s about accountability. It’s about justice. As I said to the jury, there’s nothing that can bring the loved ones back. Money has to stand in for other things because that’s the only power this jury had. But the jury sent a very clear message that those who commit terror against Americans will be held accountable in the United States court of law,” added Yalowitz.

Last September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas.

In the PLO case, lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and his agents routinely arranged for attackers to be paid, kept attackers on Palestinian payrolls, and made payments to families of attackers who died.

Lawyers for the PLO and the Palestinian Authority said those entities condemned the attacks, and blamed them on rogue low-level employees.

Palestinians wish to form a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Palestine has since 2012 been a United Nations “observer state,” and Palestinians are expected soon to join the International Criminal Court, which launched an inquiry that could lead to war crime charges against Israel.