Court to weigh challenge in suit on Israel attacks

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2014 6:20 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court said Tuesday it will consider the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization's pretrial challenge of a $1 billion lawsuit filed by U.S. terrorism victims.

The PA and PLO don't want the lawsuit to go to trial, saying a U.S. court should not have jurisdiction over the case and that the litigation could undermine their ability to govern and worsen tensions in the region.

In a one-paragraph order, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ordered lawyers who brought the lawsuit to file a response next week. The lawyers did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

A Jan. 12 trial is set over litigation brought by victims of seven shootings and bombings near Jerusalem between January 2001 and February 2004. The attacks killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more, including scores of U.S. citizens.

Lawyers for the PA and PLO told the 2nd Circuit earlier this month that a lower-court judge was wrong to establish jurisdiction over the lawsuit because of a 12-person office the PLO has maintained in the United States.

The lawyers said the PA and PLO's home was in the West Bank and that U.S. activities are a tiny portion of their worldwide activities.

The lawyers said the $1 billion sought by more than 40 plaintiffs could be automatically tripled by law to $3 billion if the PLO lost at a trial that is projected to last three months.

"Given the high stakes, extraordinary burden, and substantial foreign policy consequences associated with bringing a foreign government to trial for supporting terrorism, the trial ... should not go forward in the absence of general personal jurisdiction over them," the lawyers wrote.

They also said the publicity of the trial, "some of it inevitable, some of it sought by Plaintiffs, will undermine the confidence in the PA's ability to govern and contribute to a worsening of tensions in the region at a delicate moment."