New York jury to deliberate on Arab Bank terror trial

GMT 06:07 2014 Friday ,19 September

Arab Today, arab today New York jury to deliberate on Arab Bank terror trial

New York Branch of the Arab Banke
New York - AFP

A New York jury will begin deliberations Friday on whether Arab Bank is guilty of aiding terrorism and transferring millions of dollars to Hamas during the second Palestinian uprising.
The hugely respected Jordan-based multinational went on trial in mid-August after 300 US relatives and victims of 24 attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories filed a federal law suit in 2004.
The defense told the jury on Thursday there is no evidence Arab Bank executives supported terrorism and disputed that the institution knowingly made payments to designated terrorists.
The plaintiffs claim the bank transferred more than $70 million to an alleged Saudi terror entity, Palestinian charities they claim were a front for Hamas and 11 globally designated terrorist clients.
The bank had "a Rolodex full of Hamas customers," and lied in its defense in the eastern district court in Brooklyn, the plaintiffs said.
"It stops right here in Brooklyn. That is the power that you have today. That is the power that you have -- the right to tell other banks 'don't you dare do what this bank did,'" said lawyer Tab Turner.
"It doesn't have to be 100 percent evil but any part of this beast (Hamas) should not get any oxygen," another prosecution lawyer Mark Werbner said. "We don't want any more of that terror financing."
The trial heard that the Arab Bank transferred $60,000 to Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin -- who was assassinated by Israel in 2004 -- due to a spelling mistake of his name which was not detected by banking software.
Every bank that operates in the United States uses the same automated software to screen those on terror blacklists, said defense lawyer Shand Stephens.
"If someone is not on the list, the bank is not supposed to run around and figure who is on the list. That's for the government to do," he said.
"There's not one word of testimony in this case that would lead you to conclude that any one of those people deliberately supported terrorism," Stephens said.
The Arab Bank says it closed accounts after holders were designated terrorists.
"There's way, way too many acts here that were done knowingly and purposely over a four-year period throughout this violent intifada to call that an accident or a mistake or an oversight," hit back Werbner.
- Anti-Terrorism Act violations -
American victims and their relatives allege the bank violated the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when it served as a conduit for money from a Saudi Arabian fund to families of Palestinians who died, including suicide bombers.
They also claimed that Hamas, which the US officially designates as a terror group, directed the distribution of the money from the Saudi fund.
Stephens said Arab Bank provided routine banking services and that no charity -- including the Saudi committee -- to whom it transferred funds were on any US, UN or EU blacklist at the time.
He said that between 2000 and 2004 its Saudi fund payments to 15,000 people each month were public and approved by Israel.
Werbner said that assertion was "complete fabrication."
The plaintiffs question 180 of the Saudi payments to 24 families of purported Hamas operatives, or about one percent of the total, Stephens said.
He said there was no evidence to prove that any money transferred by Arab Bank had been used to finance terror attacks and that the cycle of violence in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict had nothing to do with his client.
"They're guilty," said Werbner.
"It was pretty foreseeable," he said that helping Hamas would mean "bad things were going to happen and that's enough to make them responsible."
The lawyers ended their concluding arguments on Thursday and district judge Brian Cogan instructed the jury on the law.
They will begin deliberations on Friday.
If the bank is found guilty then a second trial will determine how much they will be liable to pay in damages.
The Arab Bank Group has more than 600 branches in 30 countries, with assets last year worth $46.4 billion and a shareholders' equity base of $7.8 billion.

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