US jury orders Palestinian groups to pay attack victims $218.5M

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A US jury yesterday found the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority liable for supporting terrorist attacks in Israel more than a decade ago that killed dozens of people.

Jurors in Manhattan federal court awarded $218.5 million in damages to 10 American families who brought the case, a sum that is automatically tripled to $655.5 million under a 1992 US anti-terrorism law, lawyers for the families said.

Both defendants said they would appeal. It is unclear whether the plaintiffs can ever collect, though their lawyers vowed to seek out Palestinian assets to satisfy the judgment.

The verdict was the second in less than a year in which a US jury found defendants liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which lets US citizens injured by acts of international terrorism pursue damages in federal court.

Last September, a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas. A separate trial to determine damages is scheduled for this year.

The verdicts could bolster efforts by American victims to hold foreign entities responsible in US courts for overseas attacks.

A 12-member jury yesterday found the PLO and the Palestinian Authority liable over six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area and which have been attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas. The attacks killed 33 people, including several US citizens, and injured more than 450.

“Now the PLO and the PA know there is a price for supporting terrorism,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

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