A New York federal jury on Monday found Arab Bank liable for enabling terrorist attacks by Hamas by routing money to the players involved. It's a landmark decision – in the first trial of its kind against a financial institution under the Anti-Terrorism Act– which advocates already are hoping will have a deterrent effect.
"Every bank, every company and every government in the world now has to decide whether it is willing to continue doing business with an institution proven to have knowingly supported terrorism and proven to have helped murder Americans," said plaintiffs' attorney Gary Osen.
The civil verdict comes after just two days of deliberations, following a six-week trial. The lawsuit was filed a decade ago on behalf of nearly 300 victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks and their families, many of whom are Americans. It alleged that Arab Bank violated the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by knowingly providing banking services to terrorist groups like Hamas "that allowed those organizations to flourish and to engage in a campaign of terror…" That included money from a Saudi charitable group which allegedly was used as "death insurance" for families of Hamas suicide bombers.
In a move which shows the political obstacles terrorist victims often face in civil litigation, the U.S. State Department waited until after jury deliberations began to release a memorandum saying the U.S. gave Saudi officials evidence in 2003 showing that a charity there "was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers."
It was information sought by the plaintiffs for six years, attorney Michael Elsner said in a Jerusalem Post report.
"We don't expect the State Department to take sides in a civil case, but by withholding critical evidence until the jury began its deliberations, the State Department continues its unfortunate pattern of siding with foreign interests against American victims of terrorism," Elsner said.
The bank's lawyers promise an appeal, saying, "The trial was infected by scores of errors..."
Damages against the bank, which has $46 billion in assets, will be determined later.