Arab Bank asks US court to block thousands of terror

"Dollars played an important role as they provided legitimacy to Hamas," said the plaintiffs' lawyer.

December 2, 2014 21:42
2 minute read.
Arab Bank logo

Arab Bank logo. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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NEW YORK - Arab Bank Plc, found liable in a US civil court of providing material support for Hamas, urged an appeals court on Tuesday to block thousands of non-US citizens from pursuing similar claims that it financed terrorism.

A lawyer for the Jordan-based bank asked the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to uphold a lower court's dismissal last year of lawsuits by foreign victims of attacks attributed to the Islamist militant group in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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Kevin Walsh, Arab Bank's lawyer, argued that corporations cannot be sued under the Alien Tort Statute and its New York branch's dollar-clearing activities were not enough to overcome a presumption against applying the law to foreign conduct.

"It is implausible to the extreme that an automatic, incidental, mechanical activity that largely saw no human contact could rise to the level of genocidal violation," he said at the hearing.

But Michael Elsner, the plaintiffs' lawyer, argued that the dollar-clearing activity coupled with other claims was enough to allow the cases to move forward.

"Dollars played an important role as they provided legitimacy to Hamas," he said.

In September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank liable in what lawyers described as the first terrorism financing civil case to reach trial in the United States.

That verdict affects 310 Americans who are pursuing claims under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The lawsuits at issue before the federal appeals court on Tuesday were filed by 5,778 foreign citizens.

Filed between 2004 and 2010, those lawsuits accuse Arab Bank of financing terrorism by providing services to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and others who carried out attacks that caused their injuries.

US District Judge Brian Cogan in August 2013 dismissed the foreign citizens' lawsuits, which accused Arab Bank of violating another law, the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 US law often used to pursue claims over human rights abuses.

Cogan held that the plaintiffs could not pursue claims against corporations under the Alien Tort Statute. Arab Bank has said the ruling dismissed more than 90 percent of the claims it faced.

Separately, Arab Bank is awaiting a decision by Cogan on how and when it will face trial for damages in the Americans' cases and whether it can appeal the liability verdict in the meantime.

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