There is no evidence that Arab Bank executives supported terrorism, a defense lawyer told a US jury Thursday at the end of a month-long trial.
The Jordan-based multinational bank went on trial in New York on August 14, and is accused of aiding terror by transferring support funds to the families of Palestinian Arabs who died while attacking Israel.
In more than three hours of detailed concluding arguments, lawyer Shand Stephens disputed that the institution made payments to designated terrorists and that those funds were used to bankroll terror attacks.
"There's not one word of testimony in this case that would lead you to conclude that any one of those people deliberately supported terrorism. Not a word," he told a district court in Brooklyn.
The families of several Americans killed in attacks in the early 2000s allege the bank violated the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when it served as a conduit for money from a Saudi Arabian fund to the Palestinian Arab families.
But Stephens claimed Arab Bank provided routine, internationally approved banking services and that none of the charities, which the plaintiffs say were Hamas fronts, were on any terror blacklist.
"None of them, not one, nada is on the US, UN or EU list during that very time. Not one," he said.
Allegations against Hamas
The plaintiffs filed their suit in 2004, four years into the Second Intifada terror war that left thousands dead.
They said Arab Bank was the conduit by which the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada Al-Quds fund sent money to the families of Palestinian Arabs who died - including suicide bombers.
They also claimed that Hamas, which the US officially designates as a terror group, directed the distribution of the money from the Saudi fund.
Stephens said that between 2000 and 2004 no government blacklisted the Saudi Committee for terror activity and that its payments to 15,000 people each month were public and approved by Israel. For example, families of Palestinian Arabs who died or were crippled received $5,300.
The plaintiffs have questioned 180 of the payments to 24 families of purported Hamas terrorists, or about one percent of payments totaling $35 million, Stephens said.
"It's not the bank's place to stop payments that have been approved by everybody involved," he said. "You do not punish the family of someone who commits a criminal act. We don't do that in the United States... and they don't do it in the West Bank and Gaza."
He said there was no evidence to prove that any money transferred by Arab Bank had been used to finance terror attacks and that violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had nothing to do with his client.
"These terrorist attacks have been going on there for decades," he said.
The Arab Bank Group has more than 600 branches in 30 countries, with assets last year worth $46.4 billion and a shareholders' equity base of $7.8 billion.
Its shareholders included the king of Jordan and the family of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a 2005 Beirut bombing blamed on Hezbollah, a close ally of Hamas.