$655.5 Million Award for U.S. Victims of Palestinian Terrorism Faces Legal Test

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Lawyer Kent Yalowitz (right) lawyer for families suing over attacks attributed to Palestinian groups is greeted by Mark Weiss at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after a jury's decision, in February.
Lawyer Kent Yalowitz (right) representing families of terrorism victims suing over Palestinian attacks gets a hug outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York, February 2015.Credit: Reuters

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is hearing arguments this week against a lower court award of hundreds of millions of dollars to 10 families who were victims of terrorist attacks blamed on the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The attacks in the early 2000s killed 33 people and wounded more than 400. The lower court's award in February of $218.5 million was automatically tripled to $655.5 million under a U.S. antiterrorism law.

The court will hear arguments on Tuesday as to whether it was legitimate for the U.S. court to hear the case, The Wall Street Journal reports. The PA and the PLO say the U.S. lacks jurisdiction.

Families have argued that the attacked targeted U.S. citizens and were intended to influence American foreign policy, and pointed out how U.S. Congress has provided some $5 billion in foreign aid to the Palestinians.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004. Some lawyers see the appeal outcome has clarifying the scope of a 1992 Anti-Terrorism act which permits U.S. victims overseas to seek reparations in federal court.  

Until now, terrorism victims have been suing banks for facilitating payments to terrorists for damages.

"This appeal goes to the power of the  U.S. congress to exert the long arm of American law against people who kill Americans overseas," said Kent Yalowitz, a partner at Arnold and Porter LLP, representing the victimes, according to the WSJ.

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