NEW YORK (AP) — American victims of suicide bombings in the Middle East have gone to federal court to demand that a Jordan-based bank be held liable for the bloodshed.
A trial in the lawsuit against Arab Bank is set to begin with opening arguments on Thursday in Brooklyn.
Lawyers for the victims hope to convince a jury that the bank helped Hamas finance a "death and dismemberment benefit plan" for martyrs. The case will unfold after a lengthy legal battle over what evidence jurors will see and amid a backdrop of renewed hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.
The plaintiffs call it the first terrorism financing case to go to trial in the United States and say it could result in the bank paying unspecified damages. Arab Bank, which has hundreds of branches around the world, including in New York and in the Palestinian territories, has denied it knew it was doing business with terrorists when it processed electronic transfers.
The suit filed in 2004 accused the bank of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation. The U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.
The case had stalled in recent years as the bank fought demands that it turn over customer account information and other financial records, arguing that doing so would violate banking secrecy laws in Jordan and elsewhere. In 2010, a judge issued sanctions against the bank for its "recalcitrance" in withholding evidence — a penalty that would allow the court to instruct the jury that it could infer that it knowingly worked with terrorist organizations.