On Thursday, the first day of the of Linde v. Arab Bank, 04-CV-2799, trial in a Brooklyn federal court, attorneys for some 300 victims who sustained damages in 24 attacks carried out by Hamas from 2001 to 2004, told the jury and Judge Brian Cogan that the Jordan-based Arab Bank knowingly facilitated transactions used to finance those attacks.
The attacks by Hamas took place in Israel and the disputed territories during the Second Intifada of 2000.
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Plaintiffs allege that Arab Bank violated the federal Antiterrorism Act of 1990, which allows victims of violent attacks outside the U.S. to bring lawsuits against terrorists in U.S. courts.
The trial is taking place 10 years after litigation in the case had begun—was initially filed in July 2004—and following a U.S. Supreme Court decision. This civil case is the first time a U.S. jury is hearing claims that a bank financed terrorism. The United States designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 1997.
According to law.com, the plaintiffs’ attorney, C. Tab Turner, called the bank a “paymaster” that “funneled millions of dollars” to Hamas.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Werbner, told jurors that the bank knew from the beginning that its customers had ties to Hamas.
“It wasn’t a mistake, ” he said. “It wasn’t routine banking. It was a choice that Arab Bank made. They knew they were banking for Hamas.”
Werbner said the plaintiffs would show the bank maintained accounts for at least 11 Hamas operatives who appear on U.S. and global terrorist lists.
Attorneys for Arab Bank plc insist that their client followed counterterrorism laws and regulations, and cannot be held liable for violent acts by Hamas or other terrorist groups.
Arab bank has $45.6 billion in assets and 600 branches worldwide. It issued a statement last week that banks should not be held liable for “the millions of routine, automated transactions that they process even when proper compliance requirements are followed and the parties were in good standing at the time.”
Judge Cogan’s courtroom was packed on Thursday, and an overflow room filled up quickly as well. Witnesses are expected to include experts on terrorist groups and terror financing, as well as Arab Bank’s chairman Sabih Al-Masri and current and former bank executives.
Some will testify in Arabic through translators.
The plaintiffs complained that they would not be able to show jurors the full evidentiary record because the bank would not provide many requested documents on customer accounts, on the grounds of secrecy laws. This fight over account records is what led to years of delays in this case.