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October 11, 2017

Supreme Court hears Arab Bank terrorism financing case

Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments by plaintiffs’ counsel in Jesner, et al., v. Arab Bank, PLC, Case No. 16-499, to determine whether corporations may be found liable for violations of customary international law in cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Jesner plaintiffs are non-American victims and family members of victims killed or injured in terrorist attacks against civilians committed in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip between January 1995 and July 2005.

Motley Rice attorneys Michael E. Elsner, Jodi Westbrook Flowers and John M. Eubanks are counsel for the plaintiffs, along with Jeffrey L. Fisher of Stanford Law School and Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner PC.

“The loss of a child to terrorism is something no parent should ever endure. The pain increases with each passing day,” said plaintiff and Motley Rice client Yossi Zur, whose 16-year-old son Asaf was killed when a suicide bomber targeted a public bus on the streets of Haifa, Israel on March 5, 2003. “The U.S. courts have a unique opportunity to stifle these terrorist networks and save lives. It is my wish that the Supreme Court recognize the magnitude of this situation, not only for my family, but for the countless others who could be impacted in the future if these groups are allowed to flourish from material support provided by corporations and other organizations.”

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s intervention in this case and a final determination on whether corporations, just like private citizens, should be held responsible for violations of customary international law,” said Michael Elsner, Motley Rice attorney for the plaintiffs. “Terrorist organizations routinely use charities, banks and other businesses to materially support their goals. Immunizing corporations for violations of international law such as terrorist financing undermines our national security interests.”

Plaintiffs claim the bank served as the administrator for a program on behalf of the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada al Quds that provided a standard benefit of $5,316.06 to the families of Palestinians, including suicide bombers, who were killed in attacks against civilians. The Saudi Committee transferred payments exceeding $100 million through Arab Bank’s New York branch which were converted into U.S. dollars to allow a free flow of money to terrorists in the Palestinian Territories. The Bank also held bank accounts for such renowned terrorists as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas; Saleh Shehadeh, another founder of Hamas and the founder of the military wing of Hamas; and Ismail Haniyeh, the former head of the Hamas government in Gaza. The list of accountholders at the Bank served as a “who’s who” in terrorist circles in the Palestinian Territories.

Linde v. Arab Bank

In September 2014, a Brooklyn, N.Y., jury found Arab Bank liable for 24 terrorist attacks carried out by HAMAS. The jury found that Arab Bank intentionally financed HAMAS, including providing material support for terrorist attacks that resulted in the injury or death of innocent American citizens. Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, marked the first time that a financial institution had been brought to trial under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the first time that a financial institution had been found liable under the ATA for the financing of terrorism. The claims in Jesner have proceeded on a parallel track to those in Linde with the sole difference being the Linde claims proceeded under the ATA for American claims and the Jesner claims are proceeding under the ATS for non-American claims.

The second phase of the trial to establish financial damages in Linde was slated to begin August 2015, but the litigation settled for a confidential amount before going to trial. Part of that litigation is currently under appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Learn more about the Arab Bank litigation.

Learn more about the petition to the Supreme Court.