A three-judge U.S. Appeals Court panel has ruled that the family of murdered American security contractor Mark Parsons can sue the Palestinian Authority (PA) for providing material support to terrorists.
Parsons was one of three Americans providing security for a U.S. diplomatic convoy traveling from Tel Aviv to Gaza City on Oct. 15, 2003 to interview Palestinian applicants for Fulbright scholarships. Minutes after the convoy crossed into Gaza, a massive roadside bomb went off, killing him and two colleagues.
Parsons' relatives filed suit in federal court under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 charging that the PA had provided material support for and conspired with the killers. The district court granted summary judgment to the PA in May 2010, saying there was insufficient evidence to tie the PA to the attack.
Writing for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Judge David S. Tatel reversed a critical part of that ruling which dismissed allegations that PA officials had provided material support for terrorism. According to Tatel, "a reasonable juror could conclude that Palestinian Authority employees provided material support to the bomber" who killed the Americans.
Amer Qarmout, a leader of a small terrorist faction called the Popular Resistance Committees, told PA interrogators that he supervised the digging of a hole in which he planned to plant a bomb on a nearby street several days before the October 2003 attack. Qarmout said members of the group dug the hole in front of PA security forces.
A memo written to the "Director General of the Preventive Security Service" and discovered in the PA's investigative file includes "several statements about the role Palestinian Authority employees played in the bombing," Tatel noted in his majority opinion.
"The explosive device was planted 20 meters from the [PA} National Security checkpoint, a fact that indicates that those present in front of the checkpoint that day have previous knowledge of the presence of the device," the memo read.
The bombing occurred after information about the arrival of U.S. embassy staff was leaked, either by PA national security officials accompanying the convoy or manning the checkpoint, the writer concluded.
The appellate court concluded that "a reasonable juror could find on the basis of the family's evidence that Qarmout planted the bomb that killed Parsons and that the Palestinian Security forces at the nearby security checkpoint complied with Qarmout's request not to interfere with his effort to plant a bomb."
Read more about the case here.