US court rejects $654 million verdict against Palestinian groups
A US federal appeals court on Wednesday threw out a $655.5 million verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] for damages suffered by Americans killed and wounded in six attacks in Israel.
The Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the lower court which issued the February 2015 verdict did not have jurisdiction over the case and ordered it dismissed.
"The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimised these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific," Judge John Koeltl, writing for the three-member court panel, said in a 61-page ruling.
"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," it said.
The attacks, which took place between January 2002 and January 2004, left 33 people dead and wounded more than 390 others.
Later in 2004, 11 American families filed a civil suit in federal court under a US anti-terrorism law that allows victims of international attacks to pursue foreign entities in the US courts for damages.
In February 2015, after seven weeks of testimony, a jury unanimously found the two Palestinian entities liable on 25 separate counts related to the attacks, initially awarding victims and their families more than $218 million.
Attorney and human rights advocate Lamis J. Deek wrote in The New Arab at the time that the verdict was an example of politicised justice to support Israeli occupation.
"The case is but another glaring example of Israeli exceptionalism in America," Deek said.
"Just as Israeli violence seeks to prevent Palestinian return and liberation, pro-Israeli repression and impunity in the US seeks to hinder the mushrooming Palestinian solidarity movement so as to manufacture consent for continued Israeli support."
The bombings and shootings were carried out by Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - an armed offshoot of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party - during the second Palestinian uprising against Israel.