U.S. Supreme Court Won't Make PLO Pay $656 Million Terror Award

(Bloomberg) -- The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization escaped a $656 million damage award as the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by American victims of six bombing and shooting attacks in Israel.

The justices, without comment, left intact a lower court decision that said the Palestinian entities didn’t have enough of a connection to the U.S. to let them be sued under a federal anti-terrorism law.

The rebuff came at the urging of the Trump administration, which said the appeal didn’t warrant Supreme Court review.

The PLO and Palestinian Authority were accused of supporting two groups responsible for some of the attacks, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, by providing money, explosives, training and personnel. Both Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. government.

A Manhattan federal jury awarded the victims and their families $218.5 million, an amount that was tripled under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act. A New York-based federal appeals court threw out the award, saying U.S. courts generally lacked jurisdiction to hear suits against the PLO and Palestinian Authority.

In court papers, the victims contended the appeals court ruling “essentially nullifies the Anti-Terrorism Act by erecting a nearly insuperable obstacle to relief for American victims of terrorism abroad.”

The PLO and Palestinian Authority said that the lower court applied “settled” legal principles and that the Supreme Court shouldn’t “inject itself into this highly charged foreign affairs debate.”

The Trump administration didn’t directly defend the appeals court ruling. The Justice Department said instead that the ruling didn’t conflict with any other appeals court decision or Supreme Court opinion.

The Supreme Court rejected a similar appeal in 2014 when it refused to hear arguments from thousands of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., who sought to sue Middle Eastern companies and people for allegedly providing support to al-Qaeda.

The latest case is Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, 16-1071.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.