U.S. Jury Finds PLO, PA Liable Over Terror Attacks in Israel More Than a Decade Ago

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Courtroom sketch of Mark Rochon, (R) a partner at Miller & Chevalier representing the defendants in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, in New York, January 13, 2015.Credit: Reuters

A New York jury ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority to pay more than $218 million in damages to American victims of six terrorist attacks in Israel.

The verdict Monday in a Manhattan federal court was in favor of 10 American families suing over attacks in the Jerusalem area from 2002 to 2004.

The attacks have been attributed to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas. The $218 million award could be tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

“Now the PLO and the P.A. know there is a price for supporting terrorism,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an interview with Reuters after the verdict.

The verdict followed a six-week civil trial that included testimony from survivors of suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority are expected to appeal.

While the plaintiffs argued that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had arranged for attackers and their survivors to be compensated, lawyers for the PLO and Palestinian Authority said the groups had condemned terror attacks and that any payments made to terrorists were done by low-level employees acting independently.

“Money is oxygen for terrorism,” Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families, said in a closing argument, according to the New York Times. Yalowitz added that the U.S. antiterrorism law “hits those who send terrorists where it hurts them most: in the wallet.”

The U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act was also used last September by a Brooklyn jury that found the Arab Bank liable for supporting Hamas terrorism. Damages in that case will be decided in a second trial.