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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arab Bank Dodges Liability for Terrorism

(CN) - While a federal jury mostly got it right, Arab Bank should not have been found responsible for two of the 24 findings of liability for underwriting Hamas-sponsored terrorist attacks for lack of hard evidence Hamas was involved, a federal judge ruled.

After more than a decade in litigation, the families of 300 victims of suicide bombings convinced a jury to make the Amman, Jordan-based bank pay for its role in attacks on Israeli civilians between 2000 and 2004. The decision is believed to have marked the first time a financial institution has been found liable in the United States for providing material support to a terrorist organization under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The United States designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 1997.

Arab Bank sought a new trial by arguing that the families "failed to prove Hamas' responsibility for perpetrating all 24 terrorist attacks."

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan called that remark "an assertion not remotely supported by the record."

But he added that Hamas' ties to two of the attacks had not been proven at trial: a Jan. 29, 2004, suicide bombing on Bus No. 19 and a mortar attack on Neve Dekalim on Sept. 24, 2004.

"As to these two attacks, [Arab Bank] is correct," Cogan wrote in a 96-page opinion.

"Hamas certainly bears some moral responsibility for the bombing of Bus No. 19," the opinion states. "But that is not enough, in light of the uncontroverted evidence that the [al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades] built and supplied the bomb, that the bomber himself wrote in his will that he was working on behalf of the AAMB, and that several AAMB operatives were convicted for planning the attack. Ultimately, attribution of the attack to Hamas is not a question of moral responsibility, but one of whether Hamas's involvement in bringing about the attack was sufficient for a reasonable jury to find by a preponderance of the evidence that Hamas committed the attack."

Other than its claim of responsibility, Hamas left no traces that it had carried out the Neve Dekalim attack, Cogan added.

"That claim of responsibility did not identify the perpetrators, who were never arrested or captured," his opinion states.

Gary Osen, an attorney for the victims' families, praised the ruling in an email to Courthouse News.

"This thoughtful and detailed decision puts a resounding exclamation mark on the jury's verdict last September, and it highlights all the evidence that supported the jury's conclusion that Arab Bank knowingly provided millions of dollars in material support to Hamas," Osen said.

Arab Bank called the decision "predictable," "an attempt by the District Court to justify rulings that will be reviewed by the appellate courts, including decisions that have already been found by the United States to be 'erroneous' and subject to 'close scrutiny on appeal.'"

"Nothing in today's opinion changes the fact that the District Court's proceedings were fundamentally flawed and subject to reversal on appeal," Arab Bank said in a statement.

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