US court voids $655M verdict against Palestine

A US federal appeals court overturned a previous verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization in case of Americans killed in Israel.

Photo by: Creative Commons
Photo by: Creative Commons

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

A US federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a landmark $655 million verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization for damages suffered by Americans killed and wounded in six attacks in Israel.

By a 3-0 vote, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the lower court’s February 15 decision was out of his jurisdiction, and ordered it dismissed.

"The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific," Judge John Koeltl, writing for the three-member court panel, said in a 61-page ruling.

"But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs' claims," it said.

The attacks, which took place between January 2002 and January 2004, left 33 people dead and wounded more than 390 others.

Later in 2004, 11 American families filed a civil suit in federal court under a US anti-terrorism law that allows victims of international attacks to pursue foreign entities in the US courts for damages.

In February 2015, after seven weeks of testimony, a jury unanimously found the two Palestinian entities liable on 25 separate counts related to the attacks, initially awarding victims and their families more than $218 million.

They apportioned individual damages ranging from $1 million to $25 million to Americans who were injured or lost loved ones.

The sum was automatically tripled in accordance with US anti-terrorism law to $655.5 million.

The bombings and shootings were carried out by Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- an armed offshoot of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party -- during the second Palestinian uprising against Israel.

At the time of last year's initial ruling, the Palestinian Authority -- facing serious financial problems -- expressed concern about the ramifications of the judgment, and said the charges were without merit. It immediately appealed.

The Palestinians said the case was politically motivated by "anti-peace factions" in Israel to block a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In August 2015, a US judge ordered Palestinian authorities to pay $10 million in cash or bond while the appeal was pending, even though the US government had expressed worries about the PA's precarious finances.

TRTWorld and agencies