Seventh Circuit upholds $156M verdict against Muslim charities

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a $156 million verdict against three US-based Islamic charities accused of aiding Hamas [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] in the murder of David Boim, a 17-year-old American killed in Israel in 1996. Boim's estate sued the groups - the American Muslim Society, the Islamic Association for Palestine and the Quaranic Literacy Institute [advocacy backgrounders] - under 18 U.S.C. § 2333 [text], which allows US nationals to bring tort claims for injuries resulting from international terrorism. The judgment had previously been overturned [JURIST report] by a Seventh Circuit panel, as the defendants successfully argued that their donations, purportedly earmarked for humanitarian aid, did not satisfy causation. In the rehearing en banc, the circuit disagreed with its previous decision, ruling a party is liable, regardless of specific intent toward the plaintiff, for knowing intent to aid a tortuous party. Judge Richard Posner [academic profile] wrote:

So if you give a person rocks who has told you he would like to kill drivers by dropping them on cars from an overpass, and he succeeds against the odds in killing someone by this means, you are guilty of providing material support to a murderer--for remember that when the primary violator of a statute is someone who provides assistance to another he is functionally an aider and abettor. The mental element required to fix liability on a donor to Hamas is therefore present if the donor knows the character of that organization.
In 2004, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] delivered its initial verdict [JURIST report] against the three named defendants and two others who have since been exonerated or remanded. A jury later awarded Boim's family $52 million dollars [JURIST report], which was tripled in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 2333. Although the Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded the decision in December 2007, the plaintiffs successfully petitioned the court to rehear the case en banc.

 

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