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Critical Anti-Terrorism Lawsuit

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Represented by noted Washington lawyer Nathan Lewin, the parents of David Boim ? a 17 year-old New Yorker who was murdered by Hamas terrorists at a bus stop in Beit El, Israel on May 13, 1996 ? filed suit against several U.S.-based organizations that provided significant support and contributions to Hamas. These including the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Islamic Association for Palestine and the Quranic Literacy Institute. The core issue in the case is whether charities in the United States that knowingly contribute to foreign terrorist organizations that have killed and injured American citizens in bombings and other acts of terror may be sued for damages in a United States court by the American victims of these terrorist acts under a 1990 federal anti-terrorism law. A federal district judge, George W. Lindberg, ruled that the organizations could be held liable and they appealed. In an unusual move, the appeals court has asked the United States Justice Department to file a brief, amicus curiae, outlining the government's position on the legal question.

The 1990 law provides that,

Any national of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism, or his or her estate, survivors, or heirs, may sue therefor in any appropriate district court of the United States and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney's fees.

The defendants in the case maintain that this language permits a lawsuit only against the individuals who personally commit the “act of terrorism.”

New York Senators Charles Schumer (D) and Hillary Clinton (D) joined by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Charles Grassley (R-A) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft urging that the Justice Department's brief to the court “take a vigorous stance in support of the Boim family” in order to vindicate “Congress' purpose in enacting the law, which was to make any person or entity that contributes in any way to acts of international terror liable to victims of that terror.”

We heartily concur and hope that the great potential of this law in the battle against terrorism be realized.

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