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Victims Of Hamas Suicide Bombings Sue Arab Bank For Allegedly Funding Terrorism

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Attorneys for victims of Hamas suicide bombings from 2000 to 2004 are accusing an international bank of financing terror, sometimes allegedly running the money through a branch on Madison Avenue.

The suit filed in 2004 accused Arab Bank of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation. The U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.

As WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola reported, hundreds are suing the bank for allegedly laundering money to fund the group's suicide bombings.

Hamas Victims Suing Arab Bank For Allegedly Funding Terrorism

Lawyers for the victims hope to convince a jury that the bank helped Hamas finance a "death and dismemberment benefit plan" for martyrs.

"We showed the documents from the bank's own files that showed they knew they were doing banking with Hamas. In fact, documents that have been under seal the last many years, that for the first time are being disclosed in public, and I think the public is going to find it very shocking," Attorney Mark Werbner said.

The attorney for the Jordan-based bank, Shand Stevens, defended the company in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday, saying the company never knowingly handled money that paid for the bombings.

"I'm not going to comment on the specific evidence but I will say the allegations we have made are not focused on individual transactions but on Arab Bank account holders," Gary Osen said, who represents more than a third of the approximately 300 plaintiffs, victims and their families.

He says the bank never sent transfers to people on terror watch lists and if any money was sent to them, it was an error, Kosola reported.

"I think the jury is already starting to see records that in black and white show this bank was intentionally dealing with Hamas terrorists," Webner said.

The case had stalled in recent years as the bank fought demands that it turn over customer account information and other financial records, arguing that doing so would violate banking secrecy laws in Jordan and elsewhere. In 2010, a judge issued sanctions against the bank for its "recalcitrance" in withholding evidence, a penalty that would allow the court to instruct the jury that it could infer that it knowingly worked with terrorist organizations.

Arab Bank has hundreds of branches around the world, including in Palestinian territories.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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