US judge orders Palestinian deposits as security in terror case
NEW YORK - A US judge has ordered Palestinian authorities to post $10 million in cash or bond while they appeal a ruling to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to American victims of attacks.
Judge George Daniels said Monday the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization must also deposit $1 million every 30 days, pending appeal of the February verdict.
A New York jury found the PA and PLO liable for six attacks in Jerusalem between 2002-2004, awarding American victims and their families damages that amounted to $655.5 million.
Daniels said the judgment in favour of the plaintiffs would be entered in the next 60 days, but would be stayed pending appeal as long as the deposits were made with the clerk of the court.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Tuesday that the amount would be paid despite financial troubles.
"PA and PLO are in serious financial difficulty, but we have to pay," she said. "We are appealing, and in order to appeal, we have to post bail."
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration urged Daniels to "carefully consider" the PA's precarious finances in deciding whether to impose a bond requirement.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised "significant concerns" about what could happen if a bond "severely compromised the Palestinian Authority's ability to operate as a governmental authority."
He said that depriving the PA of revenue would "severely compromise" its ability to operate and warned that any collapse of the PA would "undermine" US foreign policy and "add a new destabilising factor to the region."
An Israeli organisation representing families of the attack victims, Shurat Hadin, however criticised the amount as far too small on Tuesday.
Its chairwoman, Nitsana Darshan Leitner, said in a statement that US officials had abandoned "innocent citizens affected by terrorism" in favour of "the perpetrators of Palestinian suicide attacks."
The six bombings and shootings killed 33 people and wounded more than 390 others between January 2002 and January 2004.
They were carried out by Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- blacklisted as terrorist organisations in the United States -- during the second Palestinian uprising against Israel.
The plaintiffs argued that the PA and PLO were responsible for providing material support to the groups, and the court heard that members of both groups were on the PA and PLO payroll.
Defence lawyers said there was no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence.
They disputed that the leadership should be held responsible for "crazy" attacks carried out by people who acted independently.