NEW YORK, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 700 survivors and family members of those killed or maimed by terrorism in Israel today filed an unprecedented international civil action in the U.S. Courts against Arab Bank, PLC, charging that it provides financial services and support for the terrorists' campaign of genocide, and that it encourages the recruitment of suicide bombers. The plaintiffs, citizens of the United States, Israel and 10 other countries, are taking this action to cut off the financial pipeline fueling the effort by Hamas and other terrorist groups to drive the Israeli people out of the Middle East, in the process killing more than 1,000 innocent people and injuring more than 8,000. "The terrorists have declared war on us, ordinary civilians, but today, we are striking back non-violently with the most powerful weapon we have - the U.S. Courts," said Iris Almog Schwartz, an Israeli citizen who lost her mother, father, brother and two nephews in the October 4, 2003 suicide bombing of Restaurant Maxim in Haifa. The attack seriously injured her two sisters, a nephew and a niece. "With this action, we will stop Arab Bank from supporting Hamas' campaign of genocide against the Israeli people and cripple terrorism," Schwartz said. "When it comes to terrorism, handing out the cash is no different than planning the attacks or detonating a bomb," said Joshua Faudem, a Detroit native who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and was injured in the April 30, 2002 bombing of Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv. "What happened at Mike's Place could happen tonight at a bar here in Brooklyn," Faudem added. "It could happen anywhere. That's why it's everyone's responsibility to stop terrorist funding." "Money contains two links of the chain of evil -- terrorism and genocide," said Yossi Mendellevich, whose 13-year-old son, Yuval Mendellevich was killed in a March 2003 bus bombing in Haifa. "The first part pays for the terrorist infrastructure up front -- the bombs, the hideouts, the cars. The second part provides the motivation for people to become terrorists and engage in genocidal mass murder -- the money paid to the families of suicide bombers. But through today's action, we will break the chain and uphold the rule of law." "We are here today to cut off the funding of terrorists, to stop all the killing, and to end the suffering of families on both sides," said Yoheved Franco, who lost her 18 year-old daughter, Keren Franco, in a suicide bombing on Egged bus #960, en route from Haifa to Jerusalem, on October 4, 2002. The civil action, Almog, et al. v. Arab Bank, PLC, was brought under two U.S. civil laws. The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 grants non-U.S. citizens access to the U.S. Courts to seek justice for violations of "the law of nations," such as genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism, no matter where they occur. The Antiterrorism Act of 1990 gives U.S. citizens who have been injured or whose loved ones have been killed by acts of terrorism the right to seek justice from those who financed these atrocities. "This action goes to the core of what makes our nation great," said Ron Motley, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "Here we have a law signed by none other than George Washington that uniquely empowers citizens of other countries to take action to stop the genocide that Palestinian terrorists are waging against the Israeli people. This stands as a tribute to the wisdom of our founding fathers and their enduring values of freedom and justice. Today, in that spirit, we point out the direct causal relationship between terror financing and terrorist attacks. Both are inextricably linked." Dr. Allan Gerson, co-lead counsel, noted that for American plaintiffs, "Congress and the executive branch made clear in both the Antiterrorism Act and the USA Patriot Act that U.S. citizens have not only the right but the obligation to use the courts to stop terrorism. "Clearly, the defendant provided organized and systematic financial services that served to create and sustain an economic infrastructure for a highly organized campaign of genocidal terrorism," Gerson said. "Arab Bank's New York branch even processed money from Saudi Arabia and sent it to the bank accounts of the families of suicide bombers in the West Bank. Justice demands that the families of the victims of terrorism receive compensation from those who facilitated and profited from these payoffs." Almog, et al. v. Arab Bank, PLC, was filed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Complaint notes that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine "have long and openly adhered to a shared mission: to topple and eradicate the State of Israel [and] to expel the Jews" by conducting "suicide bombings and other shockingly egregious violent acts which constitute violations of fundamental and universally recognized precepts of international law ... " "To successfully plan, fund, and carry out these attacks, [the four terrorist organizations] rely upon an open, notorious, and formalized system of terrorist financing which incentivizes and incites the attacks by paying families of suicide bombers," the Complaint alleges. It cites a BBC interview with a 15-year-old would-be suicide bomber captured by Israeli soldiers who said that the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade "told me, once you carry out the operation and the soldiers come and demolish your home, we'll stand by your parents and rebuild your house and give them money." Arab Bank empowered these terrorist groups "by serving as the 'paymaster' to the families of those terrorists who carried out suicide bombings," the Complaint charges. In particular, the defendant served, among other things, as the banker for a massive, government-supported fundraising campaign in Saudi Arabia that has funneled more than $4 billion from public and private Saudi sources to Palestinian terrorist groups and the families of suicide bombers. Arab Bank created and managed a formalized process which required beneficiaries to obtain an official certification of their deceased relative's status as a suicide bomber before receiving money. Arab Bank's New York office was central to this operation, the Complaint alleges. Because the Saudi terrorist support committees "raised funds in Saudi Riyals, which cannot conveniently be converted into Israeli currency (most commonly used in Palestinian controlled areas), Arab Bank converted those funds into U.S. dollars through its New York branch and then routed the funds back to its local branches." "The victims are not willing to sit back and do nothing," said Jason McCue, a British-based attorney for the plaintiffs. "When governments are unable to effectively tackle these issues for one reason or another, private initiatives by the victims become a legitimate means to fight the war on terror. Indeed, these proceedings will be the first opportunity for victims of different terrorist atrocities to unite as a community to challenge both terrorism and the global corporate banking system that is used by it and sustains it." Gavriel Mairone, an Israeli-based attorney for the plaintiffs, commented that, "International terrorism cannot be defeated solely by military might or police action. Attorneys have a duty to help victims rebuild their shattered lives and seek compensation from the terrorists and the greedy profiteers of terrorist organizations. At the same time, we can create a real disincentive for the terrorists and the banks and others engaging in the business of supporting terrorism for profit. This is the first step in our campaign seeking global justice." "We will pursue the financiers of terrorism to the ends of the earth," said David Mena, counsel to the Representative Organization of Israel's Terror Victims. The plaintiffs in Almog, et al. v. Arab Bank, PLC, include citizens of the United States, Israel, Russia, France, Poland, Romania, Argentina, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Afghanistan. The defendant is headquartered in Amman, Jordan and is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East, with a global network of more than 400 branches and offices in 25 countries, including the United States. Arab Bank does business in every Arab country where private banking is permitted, and has 22 local branches throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, Arab Bank has operated a federally chartered branch in New York city for 20 years. Counsel for the plaintiffs include Motley, Jodi Flowers, Don Migliori, Michael Elsner, Justin Kaplan and John Eubanks of Motley Rice LLC, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., the firm that also serves as lead counsel to the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism; Gerson, who broke new legal ground in helping the families of those who lost their lives on Pan Am Flight 103 pursue their claims against Libya; McCue of H2O Law, London, U.K., who brought the first civil action in the world against terrorists (against the Real IRA for the Omagh bombing); Mairone of Mann & Mairone, Ramat Gan, Israel, who is widely recognized as a top security, intelligence and legal expert on Middle Eastern terrorism; and Mena of David Mena & Co. Law Offices, a former member of the Knesset. Serving as special counsel is Lee Wolosky of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, New York, who was director for transnational threats on the National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The plaintiffs are utilizing a multinational research team of investigative, counterterrorism and intelligence experts.
SOURCE Motley Rice LLC