Hundreds of terror victims and their families, most of them Israelis, filed suit Tuesday against Arab Bank, which is already defending itself against claims by another group that it abets terrorism.
Both suits filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn accuse the Jordan-based Arab Bank of providing funds for the families of suicide bombers recruited by groups on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
The money was transferred via the bank’s New York branch on Madison Avenue, the plaintiffs allege.
“The idea is to put an end to the financing and support of terrorists,” said Justin Kaplan, a South Carolina-based lawyer representing the 700 plaintiffs. “Someone who finances and supports terror is no less culpable than suicide bombers and murderers.”
Arab Bank’s lawyer, Kevin Walsh, said in a statement that the accusations “as we understand them, are entirely false,” and insisted that the bank “deplores terrorism in all its forms, and is saddened by the consequences of it.”
Iris Almog Schwartz, an Israeli, said she hoped to “strike back” against those responsible for killing her parents, brother and two nephews in the October 2003 bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa.
“The terrorists have declared war on us, ordinary civilians,” said Almog Schwartz in a statement. “Today, we are striking back non-violently with the most powerful weapon we have — the U.S. courts.”
The new accusations come just as Arab Bank agreed to freeze an account in Beirut that the first plaintiffs insist was used by Hamas. “They acknowledge that the account may be controlled by Hamas and therefore have frozen it and notified the authorities,” said Gary Osen, an attorney representing the first plaintiffs, who are all American citizens.
The new group of plaintiffs include Americans, Israelis and citizens of 10 other countries, including Russia, France, Ukraine and Argentina.
In addition to Kaplan, attorneys for the plaintiffs include Allan Gerson, who negotiated a settlement between the Libyan government and families of victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Gerson is also working on a $116 trillion lawsuit on behalf of 9-11 victims against a company run by Osama bin Laden’s relatives, members of the Saudi royal family, and the nation of Sudan — all of whom the plaintiffs accuse of financing terrorism.
Kaplan’s firm, Motley Rice, also represents 9-11 families in anti-terrorism litigation.
The civil action was brought under a law dating back to 1789, the Alien Tort Claims Act, which grants non-U.S. citizens access to U.S. courts to seek justice for violations of “laws of nations,” such as genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism, regardless of where they occur.
The 1990 Anti-terrorism act allows American citizens or their families to sue those who finance terror activities.
Osen’s group is seeking $875 million in damages, while Kaplan’s plaintiffs have not specified a sum.
Arab Bank has more than 400 branches and offices in 25 countries and is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East.
Court papers allege that the bank held the funds for a Saudi-financed campaign that funneled $4 billion to Palestinian terrorist groups and the families of suicide bombers, and managed a process that allowed families of those certified as “martyrs” to collect money.