NEW YORK (Reuters) – A US jury on Monday found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas and said it must compensate victims of two dozen attacks attributed to the militant group in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Jurors needed less than two days of deliberations to reach their verdict after a six-week trial in Brooklyn federal court, which lawyers described as the first terrorism financing civil case to reach trial in the United States.
A trial on damages will be held later. Similar lawsuits are pending in New York against Bank of China Ltd and Credit Lyonnais SA. Those banks have denied the respective allegations.
Nearly 300 Americans who were either victims or related to victims of attacks linked to Hamas had sued Arab Bank in 2004.
They accused the Jordanian bank of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that lets victims of US.designated foreign terrorist organisations such as Hamas seek damages.
“It has been a long haul,” said plaintiff Maida Averbach, 76, who said her son was paralysed from the neck down in a 2003 suicide bombing and died in 2010 from complications. “Unfortunately my Steve isn’t here.” Averbach spoke to reporters by phone.
Arab Bank said it would appeal. In a statement, the bank said the verdict “comes as no surprise” after a series of what it considered legally incorrect court rulings that kept it from mounting a proper defence, and effectively “put Hamas on trial”.
The bank also said the verdict exposes banks such as itself to “enormous liability” for providing routine banking services.
Shand Stephens, a lawyer for Arab Bank, predicted that the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals “is going to reverse this”.
Mark Werbner, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said the verdict sends a message that “when a bank opens its doors to terrorists, they’re going to be held accountable”.