The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has overturned a landmark $655 million verdict made in February 2016 against the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, in favor of victims of terror and their loved ones.
The federal appeals court reversed the decision this Wednesday (August 31, 2016), finding that United States courts had no jurisdiction in the case in the first place due to the limited contacts of the PA/PLO groups with the U.S. and Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel did not question the terror under which the plaintiffs had brought the lawsuit, nor did they deny the moral right of the claim.
“The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific,” the judges said in the brief. “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.”
On April 24, the U.S. district court imposed a $10 million bond on the defendants during their appeal of the February verdict. They were also to make $1 million monthly payments during the duration of that appeal process.
Judge George Daniels presided over Sokolow v. PLO in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District Court of New York, accepting a recommendation made by the defendants and by the U.S. government, which intervened in the case earlier this summer. The government claimed that a standard bond amount would bankrupt the Palestinian Arab organizations.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, who included the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin, had requested a $30 million monthly bond be paid into an account until the case is resolved, arguing there was plenty of evidence that Arab coffers are in no danger of collapse.
After the appeal was upheld and the February verdict was overturned, attorneys for the plaintiffs contended that the decision contradicted the spirit of the Anti-Terror Act under which the lawsuit had been filed, and which had been passed following the terrorist murder of Leon Klinghoffer in 1985.
Attorney Kent Yalowitz said in a statement, “The very terrorists who prompted the law have now hidden behind the U.S. Constitution to avoid responsibility for their crimes.”
He added that the plaintiffs may consider requesting a review by the full Second Circuit or possibly file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This cruel decision must be corrected so that these families may receive justice,” he said. “No one denies — as the federal jury has found — that the Palestinians carried out these attacks and killed and injured these American citizens, who will not give up seeking justice from the courts.”
He also called for intervention by Congress and the State Department.
Attorney Gassan Baloul, representing the PA and PLO, meanwhile praised the decision, saying in a statement, “We are very gratified that the court fully accepted our clients’ consistent position that the PA and the PLO are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States courts in these matters.”
The PA and the PLO pay high salaries to the family members of terrorists who are convicted of carrying out attacks against Israelis and Jews; the higher the number of dead and/or the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary to the prisoner and/or his surviving family. Upon his release, he is greeted as a hero and presented with a lump sum, along with assistance in resuming life in society. Terrorists who die in attacks are lauded by the Palestinian Authority government as “martyrs” and heroes, with public squares, streets and children’s events named in their honor.
Hana Levi Julian