A date has been set for a bellwether trial to determine damages owed by the Arab Bank to 17 of 310 American plaintiffs for the bank’s role in financing 24 Hamas terror attacks. The May 18 trial will set the precedent against which the remaining cases will be heard.
In 2004, a federal lawsuit was filed in the US by survivors and victims’ families against the Jordan-based financial institution, under the Anti-Terrorism Act. This law allows US citizens to file claims against foreign entities designated as terrorist by the US.
According to the lawsuit, Arab Bank knowingly transferred over $70 million US dollars to a Saudi terror group, charities known to be a front for Hamas, and 11 other globally-designated terror groups.
In addition, reported The Times of Israel, a clerical error enabled the bank to transfer $60,000 to then-Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin undetected by screening software mandated for use by any financial institution with branches operating in the US. Yassin was later assassinated by Israel.
In September, a Brooklyn court found the bank liable on 24 counts of supporting terrorism, following two days of jury deliberation. The bank intends to appeal the decision, but is unlikely to be able to do so before the damages trial proceeds, which could result in billions of dollars of exposure for the bank.
Arab Bank issued a statement, hoping “the court will be as expeditious in approving the bank’s path to appeal as it has been in ordering a very complex damages proceeding to be completed under an extraordinarily compressed time frame.”
The bellwether trial will assess damages for plaintiffs from three different terror attacks, and which represent a wide range of harm, from serious injury and death to pain and suffering of survivors, according to Reuters. The 17 plaintiffs were also selected from among those represented by each of the lawyers in the case.
Ynet reported that this was the first terrorism financing civil case to reach trial in the United States. Gary Osen, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs, said he looked forward to a damages trial, to convey “to a jury some measure of the grief and loss experienced by American terror victims as a result of Arab Bank knowingly providing tens of millions of dollars to Hamas.”
The Arab Bank Group, says The Times of Israel, has more than 600 branches in 30 countries, with assets last year worth $46.4 billion and a shareholders’ equity base of $7.8 billion.