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Suit Accusing Arab Bank of Supporting Terrorism Is Dismissed
New York Law Journal
A Brooklyn federal judge has dismissed an Anti-Terrorism Act lawsuit accusing Arab Bank of serving Hamas terrorists who allegedly injured a man near the Israel-Gaza border.
Eastern District of New York Judge Jack Weinstein ruled Tuesday in Gill v. Arab Bank, 11-CV-3706, that the evidence would not support a finding by a jury that the bank had knowingly caused the plaintiff's injury.
The incident at the heart of the case took place in 2008, when the plaintiff, Mati Gill, a U.S. and Israeli citizen, was injured while working as an aide to the Israeli minister of public security, Avi Dichter.
Dichter was leading a delegation of foreign visitors on a tour of Israel, accompanied by Gill. When the group stopped at an observation point overlooking the Gaza Strip, shots were fired from Gaza, injuring Gill. A person claiming to speak for Hamas, the organization that controls Gaza, later took credit for the attack.
In 2011, Gill sued the Jordan-based Arab Bank in the Eastern District of New York under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows U.S. nationals to sue for damages arising from international terrorism. He alleged the bank supports terrorist activity by providing services directly and indirectly to Hamas, including the transfer of "martyr payments" to compensate the families of suicide bombers.
Arab Bank had been linked to terrorism before. In 2005, its New York branch agreed in a consent order to pay U.S. regulators $24 million and to institute new controls in order to comply with anti-terrorism laws. However, the bank admitted no wrongdoing.
Arab Bank moved to dismiss Gill's lawsuit. In September, Weinstein denied that motion except for one claim, for aiding and abetting terrorism. The judge found that the Anti-Terrorism Act does not allow liability for aiding and abetting, bucking the majority of federal courts that have considered the issue (NYLJ, Sept. 18).
Following discovery, the bank moved for summary judgment. In Tuesday's order, Weinstein granted that motion, finding that Gill had not presented enough evidence to link the bank to his injury.
"Plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of evidence that the Bank recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally, and proximately, caused plaintiff's injuries, either by the Bank's own actions or in a conspiracy with Hamas or other terrorist organizations," the judge wrote. "It cannot do so. Hamas is not the defendant; the Bank is. And the evidence does not prove that the Bank acted with an improper state of mind or proximately caused plaintiff's injury."
Gill's case, Weinstein said, "relies on information and a chain of inferences of remote dates with little or no citation or documentation and no persuasive argument supporting relevancy to the Bank's state of mind."
For example, Gill alleged that the bank provided services between 2000 and 2002 to a group called the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada Al Quds, which purportedly funded Hamas. Weinstein said the dates were too remote to be connected to an attack in 2008, and that in any case, Gill had not shown any direct connection between the Saudi group and his attacker.
Similarly, Gill alleged the bank served Palestinian charities that acted as fronts for Hamas.
"There is no proof that anything but routine financial services to the charities alleged to be front organizations were provided, and none of the charities were designated by the United States as front groups when the charities received services from the Bank," Weinstein said.
In fact, the judge said, some of the charities received funds from the U.S. government.
"Plaintiff can point to no evidence that the Bank consciously disregarded a substantial risk that the services it provided would end up in the hands of Hamas and be used to perpetrate a terrorist attack on an American national in April 2008," Weinstein said.
Gary Osen of Osen LLC, counsel to Gill, said his client would appeal.
"We are obviously very disappointed by the court's decision," Osen said in an email. "No federal court has required the kind of proximity in time between the material support provided and the date of a terrorist attack as the Gill court requires."
Kevin Walsh of DLA Piper, counsel for the bank, could not be reached for comment.