US jury orders Palestinian Authority, PLO to pay attack victims over $218 million

Victims and their families had requested more than $350 million, or over $1 billion after tripling, over shootings and bombings from 2002 to 2004 that killed 33 people and injured over 450.

David Guttenfelder/AP/File
In this 2002 file photo, workers clean the inside of a cafeteria hours after a bomb exploded at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing nine, four of them Americans, and wounding more than 70.

A US jury on Monday ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority to pay more than $218 million for providing material support to terrorists, a victory for Americans suing over attacks in the Jerusalem area more than a decade ago.

The verdict in Manhattan federal court added a new dimension to the long-running Middle East conflict, as American victims sought to use US courts to seek damages.

Jurors found in favor of 10 American families suing over six attacks attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas. The award could be tripled under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.

Victims and their families had requested more than $350 million, or over $1 billion after tripling, over shootings and bombings from 2002 to 2004 that killed 33 people and injured over 450.

"Now the PLO and the PA know there is a price for supporting terrorism," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an interview after the verdict.

The PLO and the Palestinian Authority are expected to appeal, and it is unclear whether victims would ever be able to collect.

Neither defendant was immediately available to comment.

The trial began six weeks ago and was the second in less than a year in which a US jury found defendants liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which lets US citizens injured by acts of international terrorism pursue damages in federal court.

Last September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas.

In the PLO case, lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and his agents routinely arranged for attackers to be paid, kept attackers on Palestinian payrolls, and made payments to families of attackers who died.

Lawyers for the PLO and the Palestinian Authority said those entities condemned the attacks, and blamed them on rogue low-level employees.

Palestinians wish to form a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Palestine has since 2012 been a United Nations "observer state," and Palestinians are expected soon to join the International Criminal Court, which launched an inquiry that could lead to war crime charges against Israel.

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