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US judge dismisses Hamas financing suit against Arab Bank

Nov. 6, 2012 11:05 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 6, 2012 11:05 A.M.)
By: Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought by a US man wounded in the Middle East who sought to hold Arab Bank liable for providing material support to the Palestinian group Hamas.

US District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn, New York, held that Mati Gill could not prove Arab Bank was responsible for injuries he sustained in 2008 from gunshots fired from Gaza into Israel.

At the time of the attack, Gill was serving as an aide to Israel's then-public security minister, Avi Dichter, according to the complaint. Gill was wounded by sniper fire while touring Israel's border with a delegation from the Canada-Israel Committee, the complaint said.

In court papers, Gill said an individual purporting to represent Hamas, which has governed in Gaza since 2007, claimed responsibility for the shooting on a Hamas-run website.

Gill, a dual US-Israeli citizen, sued Jordan-based Arab Bank in 2011, claiming it provided financial support to Hamas and coordinated payments to family members of group members killed in action.

He sought monetary damages under the US Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of attacks by US-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation. The US State Department designated Hamas as such an organization in 1997.

"Moral blame should only follow if the harm caused by providing bank services to terrorists is foreseeable," Weinstein wrote, saying he found insufficient proof Arab Bank had knowledge its actions would lead to a US citizen being harmed.

"Hamas is not the defendant; the bank is," Weinstein wrote. "And the evidence does not prove that the bank acted with an improper state of mind or proximately caused plaintiff's injury."

The case, which had been set to go to trial on Nov. 19, is one of a handful filed against banks in Brooklyn federal court by survivors of Hamas-affiliated attacks.

A lawyer for Gill, Gary Osen, said he was disappointed and intended to appeal.

"This is the first Arab Bank case where the court has evaluated the entire record, and it dismissed the case concluding that the bank was not responsible for the plaintiff's injuries," Bob Chlopak, a spokesman for Arab Bank, said in a statement.
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