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US top court declines to hear PLO lawsuit

Thousands of Muslim worshippers perform prayer on Laylat Al-Qadr in the month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard in Jerusalem on 21 June 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Thousands of Muslim worshippers perform prayer on Laylat Al-Qadr in the month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard in Jerusalem on 21 June 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The country’s highest court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit from 11 victims and their families against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA), Anadolu reports.

Supreme Court Justices issued theri decision without comment as part of a broader set of orders. The decision leaves in place a lower court’s ruling in 2016 that said the PLO and PA do not have enough of a nexus to the US to be sued in US courts.

The American families had been awarded $218.5, tripled to $655 million under the applicable law, regarding six bomb and gun attacks in Jerusalem from 2002 to 2004 that resulted in the deaths of their kin.

The victims and families sued the Palestinian organizations under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that allows victims of international terrorism to be sued in the US But one year after they were awarded more than half-a-billion dollars, an appellate court in New York state threw out the award on the grounds that US courts lack the jurisdiction to hear cases against the PA and PLO, prompting the Supreme Court appeal.

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The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case caps a civil lawsuit that had been running since 2004.

Husam Zomlot, Palestine’s chief representative to Washington, said the decision “reaffirms the vital relationship between the Palestinian and American people, which depends on mutual respect and, as importantly, on respect for the rule of law.

“The court of appeals,” he added in a statement, “upheld the rule of law when it overturned the unjust, initial decision in the Sokolow case that should never have been brought to trial in the first place.”

The attacks occurred during the Second Intifada, a period of strife that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

In a rare move, the Donald Trump administration sided with the PLO in the lawsuit, saying in a court filing that the case does not warrant the attention of the Supreme Court.

“This Court’s intervention is not warranted,” according to the briefing document.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement sent to Anadolu Agency: “The United States condemns acts of terror in the strongest terms and the Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who commit terrorist attacks against innocent human beings to the fullest extent that the law allows.”

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