Courtroom sketch of US terror trial.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK - The Obama administration urged a US judge to "carefully consider" the Palestinian Authority's financial condition in determining the size of any bond it must post to appeal a jury's finding that it supported terrorist attacks in Israel.
The US Department of Justice filed a notice of interest in the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court late on Monday, after 10 American families in February won a $655 million verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority.
The Justice Department said the government "strongly supports" allowing terrorism victims to vindicate their interests in court.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken nonetheless asked US District Judge George Daniels to "carefully consider" how requiring a multimillion-dollar bond could affect the Palestinian Authority's viability, given its delicate finances.
The Palestinian Authority's collapse "would undermine several decades of US foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region, compromising national security," Blinken said.
Kent Yalowitz, the families' lawyer, said he was disappointed by the State Department position. He said that if the Palestinian Authority "has enough money to pay convicted terrorists, it has enough to pay the judgment in this case."
A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The filing reflected the US government's competing interests in the diplomatically sensitive lawsuit, which has added a new dimension to the Middle East conflict.
In February, jurors found the PLO and Palestinian Authority liable for six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area, which have been attributed to the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas.
Those attacks killed 33 people, including several US citizens, and injured more than 450.
The jury awarded the families $218.5 million, a sum automatically tripled under a US anti-terrorism law to $655.5 million.
The PLO and the Palestinian Authority want the judgment stayed pending appeal, with no requirement to post bond.
The families counter that the defendants should deposit $30 million per month with the court. At a July hearing, Daniels signaled he might require a bond.