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Arafat Letter Won’t Beget Terror Case Sanctions

MANHATTAN (CN) - Mohamed Mashhur Mohamed Hashaika blew himself up on the streets of Jerusalem in March 2002, more than a year into the Second Intifada. The bombing came weeks after then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat received a letter from the head of general intelligence about Hashaika's arrest.

One of Hashaika's alleged co-conspirators named in the letter, Nasser Jamal al-Shawish, masterminded the bombing, which killed four people and injured 81 others.

Bearing the subject line "Islamic Jihad," the Feb. 22, 2002, letter informed Arafat of the arrest of then-21-year-old Hashaika who "wanted to perpetrate a suicide operation."

According to the letter, Palestinian authorities also picked up two of Hashaika's alleged enablers, who "recruited him, equipped him, and were about to transfer him across the Green Line."

The Green Line divides Israel from the lands it occupied after the 1967 war.

Dozens of victims of terror attacks in Israel headed to trial in January received the letter earlier this year in discovery for their decade-old claims. Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization seeks to hold the various Palestinian leaders liable under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991.

While the victims' lawyers contend that the letter shows Arafat's hand in the plot, the Palestinian Authority insists that "there is actually nothing nefarious about the document," and that it "supports the PA's claim that it was attempting to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians."

The lawyers for the victims wanted the Palestinian groups to face sanction for handing over the letter after the discovery deadline, but roughly 10 months before the start of trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis released a sealed opinion on Sept. 30 that found no evidence for the claim that the Palestinian groups were hiding evidence.

"If defendants have other documents that they are withholding, why produce the document in question at all?" the eight-page opinion unsealed Friday asks. "The court is aware of many cases in which a party has been accused of producing favorable documents and withholding unfavorable ones. This is the first time a party has asserted that a document produced by the adversary clearly supports its claims."

Ellis dismissed the sanctions motion as "meritless" and based on "dubious logic."

Lawyers for the victims declined to comment beyond stating their intention to appeal the magistrate's decision to the federal judge.

Lawyers for the Palestinians did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trial is slated to begin on Jan. 12, 2015.

Al-Shawish, the co-conspirator in the March 2002 bombing, is serving four life sentences in an Israeli prison, according to a court document.

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