American court gives nod to terror suit against PA

Parsons was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a State Department convoy he was guarding in Gaza in October 2003.

Court gavel justice judge legal law 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Court gavel justice judge legal law 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Washington, DC’s Court of Appeals ruled on Sunday that a civil suit filed against the Palestinian Authority by the family of Mark Parsons, a US State Department contractor killed in a Gaza bombing during the second intifada, can proceed.
The appeals court ruling overturns a previous ruling in the US District Court, in which judges had ruled in favor of the Palestinian Authority.
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The Parsons’s attorney, Steven Perles, told The Jerusalem Post that the US District Court for the District of Columbia had ruled that the case did not have enough evidence to allow it to go to trial.
However, the appeals court disagreed with that verdict.
The Parsons family is suing under the US Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows US citizens to bring civil suits against foreign terrorists.
The 31-year-old Parsons, a security contractor for Dyn- Corp International, was part of a US convoy when he was killed in a roadside bomb blast in Gaza in October 2003.
His family claims that the PA provided material assistance to the terrorists who carried out the deadly attack and that both the PA and the Palestinian Liberation Organization are at least partly responsible for the attack that killed him.
They say they have evidence that proves PA security officials deliberately turned a blind eye when the bomb was planted, and that they leaked information about the US convoy’s movements.
“[The appeals court] stated that the Parsons family had produced enough evidence that the PA assisted the terrorists who planted a bomb that killed Mark Parsons to allow the case to continue to trial,” said Perles, whose Washington, DC-based firm has represented over a thousand terror victims and their families.
On October 15, 2003, Parsons was part of a team providing security for a US State Department convoy of three armored SUVs as it traveled through the Gaza Strip. Meters from a manned Palestinian checkpoint on the Salahadin Road, a massive underground bomb exploded killing Parsons and two of his coworkers, John Branchizio and John M. Linde.
Although both PA and FBI investigations turned up forensic and other evidence that the bomb that killed Parsons matched in type and structure devices used by terrorists from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) arrested in connection with the bombing, neither the PA, Israel or the USA have ever publicly identified the bomber responsible for Parsons’s death.
However, the Parsons family claims that the PA know exactly who was responsible for the bombing.
They allege that one of those responsible was Amer Qarmout, a senior PRC operative who was also involved in several terror attacks against Israelis, including a suicide attack in Dimona, before he was killed in an IAF airstrike in 2008.
To support their claims against the PA, the Parsons family has submitted documents to the court taken from a PA security forces’ investigative dossier compiled after the bombing.
Immediately following the bombing, PA security and police forces launched an investigation, during which six suspects were arrested and interrogated.
One of those suspects was Qarmout.
PA investigation documents obtained by the Parsons’s counsel revealed that Qarmout had admitted to interrogators that, several days before the bombing, he had personally supervised the digging of a hole on the Salahadin Road.
Qarmout said he had done so in order to plant a roadside bomb just meters from a manned PA security checkpoint.
Qarmout also admitted to possessing three bombs weeks before the explosion that killed Parsons. He told interrogators that he had intended to plant one of these bombs on the Salahadin Road.
PA investigators also noted that descriptions of the bomb Qarmout admitted to possessing matched that used in the bombing.
PA investigation documents further revealed that Qarmout had told interrogators he had “introduced himself to [PA] soldiers and asked them to turn their attention away from the men who were planting the device.”
This, the Parsons family alleges, shows that the PA aided terror by deliberately agreeing to turn a blind eye to the planting of the bomb.
And according to an anonymous memo in the PA investigation file, PA National Security personnel “leaked information of the arrival of US Embassy staff” to those who detonated the bomb.
The Parsons family also submitted as evidence to support their argument a 2007 interview with former Palestinian security service head Muhammad Dahlan, in which he claimed that Palestinian security forces “protected and hid half of the Hamas leadership during the second intifada.”
The Parsons family has been fighting for justice since 2003, when they first filed the lawsuit.
According to the Parsons’ attorney, Steven Perles, the case will now be sent back to the US District Court where the lower court judges will decide how to proceed.