U.S. Federal Jury Finds PA And PLO Liable For Israel Attacks

Feb 23, 2015
Originally published on February 23, 2015 5:40 pm

A federal jury has found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for attacks that occurred in Israel more than a decade ago. The plaintiffs, who are U.S. citizens, were awarded more than $218 million. The amount could be tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

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A jury in Manhattan ruled today that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority are liable for backing terrorist acts in Israel. They awarded more than $200 million to American family members of victims who died or were wounded in terrorist attacks. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: The case involves suicide bombings and other violence in Israel from 2002 to 2004 that left more than 30 people dead and hundreds injured. Ten families of the American victims brought the civil lawsuit to a federal court in Manhattan under the Anti-terrorism Act. It allows Americans who are victims of overseas terrorist attacks to sue in American courts. University of Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurule once investigated the financing of terrorist groups at the U.S. Treasury Department. He says this lawsuit, like a few others, is using a particular tactic to seek justice from terrorists.

JIMMY GURULE: These claims under the Anti-terrorism Act are really being brought against secondary actors, not the individuals who actually committed or perpetrated the act of terrorism.

WANG: The alleged secondary actors in this case are the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. The lawsuit is testing how the Anti-terrorism Act can be applied. In this case, the victims may be able to triple their award to more than $600 million. But Gurule says they may never see the full amount.

GURULE: How are those damages going to be enforced? How is that money going to be recovered? You have an entity in the Palestinian Authority that economically right now is right on the brink.

KAREN GREENBERG: It's a resounding setback in terms of what this can cost them going forward. If there are more cases like this, they are tremendously costly.

WANG: Karen Greenberg directs the Center on National Security at Fordham University's law school. The verdict, she says, complicates the already entangled Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it may allow more victims of terrorist attacks to use U.S. courts to seek justice from stateless terrorist groups.

GREENBERG: There is going to have to be a greater meeting of the minds about where the courts fit into this larger issue of terrorism and of where the non-state actor fits.

WANG: In court, attorneys for the Palestinian Authority and the PLO argued that their clients had nothing to do with the attacks. A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority says they will appeal the ruling. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.