BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Arab Bank “did what it was required to do” and isn’t liable for 24 Hamas-sponsored suicide attacks in Israel, a defense lawyer said Thursday during closing arguments in the landmark jury trial.
“The bank isn’t supposed to run around and figure out” who’s on a backlist, attorney Shand Stephens told a jury in U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan’s high-rise courtroom. “That’s what the government does. And you wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Stephens presented the bank’s closing arguments after a six-week trial stemming from a decade-old federal class action lawsuit filed by families of 300 victims of two dozen separate Hamas-led suicide attacks in the West Bank during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2004.
Tab Turner, who represents the families, countered during his closing this afternoon that Arab Bank served as “‘The Bank of the Stars’ in the world of terrorism.” He said it made $2 billion off terrorism in the year 2003 alone.
The jury should “step up to the plate and say not any more … it stops right here in Brooklyn,” Turner said.
“This bank was the only bank making money off the terrorists,” the attorney continued. “They’re not interested in truth. They’re interested in protecting their pocket book. That is the power that you have: to tell other banks, ‘Don’t you dare do business with these people. You do, and you will pay.’
“That’s how we stop terrorism. You don’t stop it with bullets. You don’t stop it with smart bombs. How you stop them is you take the money away from them.”
Turner had argued at the start of the trial that the bank turned a “blind eye” when it provided banking services for known Hamas leaders. Arab Bank served as “paymaster” when it made tens of millions of dollars in payments – mostly in American cash and funded by the Saudi Committee – to families of suicide attackers, the attorney argued.
But Stephens noted in his closing arguments that “there are thousands of people in the world, for the United States, the United Nations, the European Union … spending thousands and thousands of hours to figure out who belongs on those terrorist lists.”
“And none of the people they say in this case are on this list,” the bank’s attorney continued. “So [the plaintiffs are] asking you to make your own list.”
Stephens also argued that the bank didn’t know who it was paying because their names did not appear on any U.S. or international blacklists.
Turner quipped that this was not so for one noted Hamas leader who allegedly held an account with the bank. “Everybody knows him,” Turner said. “It’s like JLo walked in.”
During his closing, Stephens urged the jury to remember that it is up to governments – not privately held businesses like banks – to designate who is or isn’t a terrorist, and that Arab Bank has heeded that list and blocked transactions and froze accounts whenever a match was made.
Stephens scoffed at the “proposition that private businesses are supposed to make up their own list of terrorists.”
“Imagine if the bank did that?” he asked. “Imagine what it would do to my credit rating? Imagine.”
Stephens also reminded the jury that “no government in the world” had identified the Saudi Committee as a terrorist organization.
But Turner urged the jury to use its “common sense” when reaching its decision.
“You check your phone in downstairs,” Turner said. “You don’t check in your common sense.”
The case is said to be the first of its kind on U.S. soil under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorist attacks to be compensated. Hamas was branded a terrorist group by the United States in 1997.
Cogan will charge the jury this afternoon, and they should begin deliberations Friday.
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