PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi will testify in the very near future on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in a landmark US terrorism-financing case against it.
Also, because Ashrawi was announced late in the game as a witness in the case, the plaintiffs will get to depose her in an unusually scheduled weekend deposition on Saturday.
According to Shurat Hadin, which represents the plaintiffs suing the PA, New York federal Judge George B. Daniels decided late Tuesday to allow Ashrawi to testify over their objection, a decision that until now has not been reported.
The plaintiffs had opposed allowing Ashrawi to testify, arguing that she had no personal knowledge regarding the case’s allegations against specific PA employees for involvement in a series of terrorist attacks from 2002 to 2004 against Americans who were in Israel at the time.
Shurat Hadin and its trial counsel, Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter, had also cited a 2006 document in which Ashrawi claimed not to have been involved in the PLO.
In other words, they said that her 2006 statement about not being involved in the PLO invalidated her from claiming now that she had personal knowledge relating to the case.
The court overruled the objection, citing Ashrawi’s ability to explain why payments from the PA to its employees and their families who were involved in the terrorist attacks were not a reward for terrorism, but, according to Shurat Hadin, will prevent Ashrawi from changing the focus of the case to a political attack on Israel.
Representatives for the PA on the case had not responded by press time.
The plaintiffs are almost done in their part of the trial, which started on January 13, and the defense is expected to open its case next week, with Ashrawi testifying soon after.
The case could carry as much as a billion- dollar price tag if the plaintiffs win and could have a range of diplomatic and financial implications for the PA.
The case revolves around a January 22, 2002, assault-rifle attack; January 27, March 21 and June 19, 2002, and January 29, 2004, suicide bomb attacks; and an extra large-scale bombing attack on July 31, 2002 – all in Jerusalem.
The families allege, in the words of US District Judge George B. Daniels, that the PLO carried out terrorist acts to “terrorize, intimidate, and coerce the civilian population of Israel into acquiescing to defendants’ political goals and demands, and to influence the policy of the United States and Israeli governments in favor of accepting defendants’ political goals and demands.”
Up to dozens of survivors of the attacks may testify in a trial expected to be emotionally explosive, lasting up to three months.
The defense denies the allegations and says that any PA employees involved in terrorism acted on their own.
A former IDF intelligence officer has testified about the relationships between the PLO, the PA, Fatah and the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and, most importantly, between the PA and Hamas.
A centerpiece of the plaintiffs’ case is that the PA supported Hamas terrorist attacks not only ideologically but also by providing weapons, funds and logistics support, whenever the peace process went cold.
Frank G. Runyeon contributed to this report.