A federal judge found two U.S.-based Islamic charities and an alleged fundraiser for the Palestinian militant group Hamas liable for damages Wednesday in the 1996 shooting death of an American teenager in Israel.
Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys said the defendants clearly knew the charitable funds they sent to Palestinian groups on the West Bank were destined for Hamas and that the group was involved in terrorism.
Stephen J. Landes, a lawyer for the parents of the slain teenager, David Reuven Boim, said it was the first time a court had held U.S.-based organizations liable for terrorism abroad.
Keys ordered a Dec. 1 jury trial to decide how much must be paid by the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Islamic Association for Palestine and alleged Hamas fundraiser Mohammed Salah of Chicago.
“This is a huge win for victims of terrorism,” Landes said. “It shows the law works.”
Boim’s parents are seeking $600 million, though lawyers said there was little chance of collecting that amount.
Boim, 17, a yeshiva student, was killed in 1996 while waiting for a bus in the West Bank. One of his Hamas attackers was caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison; the other died in a 1997 suicide bombing.
Boim’s parents claim money from the charities found its way into Hamas coffers and therefore financed the type of violence that killed their son.
Holy Land Foundation lawyer John Boyd said the charity had been unfairly singled out, and called it “an enormous disappointment” that the judge found it liable before the case could go to a jury.
Lawyer Brendan Shiller, representing the Islamic Association for Palestine, said the judge’s decision “dangerously stretches theories of liabilities so you no longer have to prove cause and effect.”
“We’re definitely going to appeal,” Shiller said.
The defendants denied ties to Hamas and argued that there was no evidence that money they sent to charities on the West Bank was tied to Boim’s killing.
Keys, however, said the Boims didn’t need to show that.
“Rather, the Boims need only show that the defendants were involved in an agreement to accomplish an unlawful act and that the attack that killed David Boim was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the conspiracy,” Keys said.
Keys made his decision without a trial -- a “summary judgment” -- that Salah and the two groups were liable based on evidence presented in court papers. He said the evidence was clear.
If the trial goes forward as planned, the jury will be asked to decide if a fourth defendant, Quranic Literacy Institute, must pay damages.
Boim’s parents said the institute also was to blame because Salah worked there while allegedly raising funds for Hamas.
Quranic Literacy lawyer John Beal said his clients had maintained all along that they had “absolutely nothing to do with the funding of Hamas.”
Salah’s assets have been impounded by the government, which wants them forfeited. He was indicted in August with two other men on charges of financing terrorism.
Holy Land Foundation’s funds were impounded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the group was charged in Dallas in July with funding terrorism.