Courtroom sketch of US terror trial.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A US federal court in New York on Wednesday rejected Amman-based Arab Bank’s bid for a retrial of a landmark jury verdict finding it liable for knowingly supporting terrorism efforts related to a series of attacks in Israel from 2001 to 2004.
US District Judge Brian Cogan, the same judge who managed the trial whose outcome Arab Bank wanted to overturn, ruled that the jury’s verdict last September 22 “was based on volumes of damning circumstantial evidence that defendant knew its customers were terrorists.”
The ruling does not end Arab Bank’s opportunities to challenge the verdict, as it can still turn to the US federal court of appeal and even above that to the US Supreme Court, but it does close one of its avenues.
The plaintiffs were victims of 24 attacks in and around Israel that were carried out by Hamas.
The jury held Arab Bank liable for having provided material support to that group, in what lawyers called the first terrorism financing civil case to go to trial in the United States.
Gary Osen, a lawyer for some victims and their families, said in a phone interview that the judge’s opinion “confirms that there was overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s having knowing provided material support to Hamas.”
In opposing the retrial motion, the plaintiffs had argued that contrary to the bank’s complaints about the trial, the jury’s verdict was “the inexorable result of overwhelming evidence” of the bank’s “complicity in dozens of terror attacks that maimed and murdered more than a thousand people.”
They added that Arab Bank “stonewalled nearly all discovery [of evidence]” in the case for more than a decade while simultaneously and falsely casting itself as “the victim of a show trial.”
The bank’s retrial motion focused on eight areas where it argued the district court erred in applying the law, causing it prejudice before the jury and therefore justifying a retrial.
Some of the bank’s arguments could bring in not only the US Supreme Court, but also US executive branch intervention on a later appeal.
These arguments include that the trial court applied a plaintiff-friendly causation standard (which the bank says the trial court uncritically adopted from the pretrial court) for how carefully the plaintiffs needed to connect the bank to each of the attacks, and that the court disregarded certain issues of Jordanian sovereignty.
A spokeswoman for Arab Bank had no immediate comment.
Cogan is expected to preside on July 13 over a trial to determine damages for three of the attacks.