Thursday, November 20, 2014

Palestinian Authority Must Face U.S. Trial Over Terror Support: Judge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. victims of bombings and shootings in Jerusalem more than a decade ago have cleared a final hurdle to take the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization to trial in New York for supporting the attacks.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan largely denied bids by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to dismiss the long-running $1 billion lawsuit ahead of a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 12.

At a court hearing on Thursday, Daniels also reaffirmed his decision in 2008 finding that his court had jurisdiction over claims against the Palestinian Authority and PLO despite changes in law at the appellate level.

Mark Rochon, a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority, said in court his client was "considering whether to seek appellate relief on that issue." He declined to comment after the hearing on Daniels' other rulings.

Daniel's ruling on the dismissal motion was issued late on Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks $1 billion on behalf of 11 families who say the PLO and Palestinian Authority provided material support and resources for seven separate attacks in Israel that killed and injured American citizens.

"We are looking forward to presenting the evidence to the jury," said Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families.

Should the case go to a jury, it would mark a rare trial in a lawsuit under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. A federal jury in Brooklyn in September found Arab Bank Plc liable under the law for providing material support to Hamas.

The judge's decision allowing the case to go forward comes amid continued unrest in recent weeks in Jerusalem. On Tuesday, two Palestinians killed five people at a Jerusalem synagogue during morning services, the worst attack in the city since 2008.

The lawsuit, filed in 2004, accused the PLO and the Palestinian Authority of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act through support of Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which the U.S. government deems terrorist organizations.

In his ruling, Daniels said the plaintiffs had presented triable issues over whether the PLO and the Palestinian Authority directly supported Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades with money, weapons and personnel, as well as by harboring purported terrorists.

The judge also said most of the plaintiffs could pursue claims that the Palestinian Authority was vicariously liable for its employees' alleged participation in attacks in 2001 and 2002.

The case is Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 04-00397.