Palestinian Groups to Pay Fraction|of Terror Award Pending Appeal

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Emphasizing his “serious consideration” to the Department of State, a federal judge set a bond on Monday that the Palestinian Authority does not expect to break its coffers while appealing a $655 million terror-support verdict.
     The hearing comes six months nearly to the day that jurors awarded a $218.5 million judgment to 10 families of those injured and killed by suicide bombings and other attacks during the uprising known as the Second Intifada, which rocked Israel between 2002 and 2004.
     That award was automatically tripled under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
     The families, led by plaintiff Mark Sokolow, had pursued the case for more than a decade as the spate of attacks waned.
     Upholding the verdict Monday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels rejected complaints from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority that the trial inappropriately excluded evidence about the political and social context of the attacks.
     The case is “not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Daniels said from the bench.
     With an appeal imminent, Kent Yalowitz, an attorney for the families with the firm Arnold & Porter, urged the judge to order the Palestinian groups to post a bond high enough to assure that his clients will get paid if the Second Circuit affirms the award.
     Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Daniels in a declaration to “carefully consider” what effect too high a bond might have on the “continued viability of the PA in light of evidence of its financial situation.”
     “Senior U.S. officials have made clear to other governments that if the PA were to collapse, we would be faced with a crisis that would not only impact the security of Israelis and Palestinians, but would potentially have ripple effects elsewhere in the region,” Blinken wrote.
     The State Department believes that such an ensuing power vacuum could worsen Syrian refugee crisis, create a vulnerability that the self-professed Islamic State could exploit, spill over into the neighboring country of Jordan, and spark a humanitarian crisis in war-torn Gaza, according to the declaration.
     Mitchell Berger, an attorney for the PA from the firm Squire Patton Boggs, spoke in court of the current “dire financial situation” for the Palestinian government, which he compared to the Greek debt crisis.
     “There’s a lot at stake here,” Berger said. “That is what the U.S. government told you.”
     While the PA and PLO initially sought to waive any requirement to set a bond on the judgment, Berger agreed to a smaller amount at Monday’s hearing: a one-time deposit of $10 million, followed by payments of $1 million per month until the appeal has been resolved.
     “We’re not coming here with an inflexible position,” Berger said. “We’re trying to be reasonable.”
     For the Palestinian Authority, a loss of $1 million carries the “human consequences” of potentially leading to the firing of 955 government workers and eliminating the reconstruction of a school and hospital in Gaza, he said.
     Judge Daniels set the bond at the compromise amount selected by the Palestinian Authority, far lower than the $30 million per month figure that the victims originally requested.
     The Palestinian Authority must pay the first deposit on Sept. 23.
     Yalowitz told reporters the hearing that he was “disappointed in the amount” of the bond, which he described as a “token amount” and a “rounding error.”

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