Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Lawyer for PLO: Terrorists Acted 'On Their Own Reasons' Lawyer representing the PLO at a U.S. trial says the PLO never officially sanctioned attacks during the Second Intifada.
A lawyer representing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at a trial in the United States claimed on Tuesday that terrorists who carriedsix attacks in Israel from 2002 to 2004 were "acting on their own angry, crazy reasons."
The comments came as a U.S. jury at a high-stakes civil trial was asked to decide whether the Palestinian authorities should be held responsible and pay hefty damages for aterror attacks in Israel that killed and wounded Americans, The Associated Press (AP).
"The evidence will show that killing civilians was standard operating procedure for the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority," attorney Kent Yalowitz, representing the victims, said in opening arguments at a trial in federal court in Manhattan.
Defense attorney Mark Rochon countered in his opening statement that the terrorists acted on their own and argued that that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) were victims of guilt by association with assailants in attacks that were never officially sanctioned.
"We are not defending these acts," Rochon said, calling them "horrific."
But he asked jurors to set aside their emotions over scenes of bloodshed and opinions about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and instead focus on the question of "whether or not the government I represent should be held liable for things it did not do."
The trial was recently cleared to be held after the rejection of a petition against it by the PLO and the PA, marking the first time the PLO will be held legally responsible for its actions.
Legal rights group Shurat Hadin (Israel Law Center) is helping represent the 11 families who charge the PA and PLO of inciting, supporting, planning and executing the seven terror attacks which killed American citizens between 2000 and 2004.
The first witness in Tuesday’s hearing, Meshhulam Pearlman, testified that he witnessed a bus bombing in Jerusalem in 2004 near ashop he operates there. The blast left the street strewn with body parts, he said.
"People were severed into pieces. ... It was worse than a war," said the 70-year-old witness, according to AP.
The 2004was brought under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991 and seeks a billion dollars from the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say any damages awarded would be automatically tripled because the claims involved acts of terrorism.
In, lawyers for the Palestinian Authority and the PLO say a U.S. court should not have jurisdiction over the case just because the PLO maintains a 12-person office in the United States. They say the Palestinian Authority and the PLO's home is in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria.
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."
The trial is to resume on Wednesday.
Shurat Hadin's Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told Arutz Sheva last month that the verdict in the trial could be precedent-setting.
"The Palestinian Authority is trying to create this image of being an entity worthy of becoming a state, and a judgment declaring that the Palestinian Authority sponsors terrorism or is involved in terrorism would make harder their efforts to become a state," Darshan-Leitner explained. "It would have to work very hard to clear up its name."
"If a judgment finds the PLO responsible for the terror attacks during the Intifada, that will set a precedent for other terror organizations to be charged with responsibility for the terror attacks they perpetrated," she stated. "The Palestinian Authority will have an overall responsibility for the crimes they committed during the Intifada - [and] every terrorist organization will [also] be liable for the attacks they committed."