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Appeals Court Next Stop As Jury Awards $156 Million In Terrorism Case
Associated Press
December 9, 2004

By Mike Robinson
Associated Press Writer

Three Islamic groups and an alleged fund-raiser for the Palestinian militant group Hamas are expected to appeal the $156 million in damages they are being ordered to pay in the death of an American teenager at the hands of Hamas gunmen.

A federal court jury set $52 million in damages Wednesday after one day of deliberation in the civil suit brought by the parents of 17-year-old David Boim and U.S. Magistrate Arlander Keys tripled the amount in accord with U.S. anti-terrorism law.

It was a fresh blow to a group of Islamic charities and others who have seen their assets frozen and in some cases found themselves under federal indictment for allegedly funding terrorist groups as part of the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism.

The Boim case was also the first in which jurors awarded damages from U.S.-based charities accused of bankrolling Hamas, according to Boim attorney Nathan Lewin.

Joyce and Stanley Boim, who moved their family from New York to Jerusalem in 1985 for religious reasons and have long fought the case through the courts, were elated.

"I finally have justice for David," Joyce Boim told reporters. "He's up there, smiling down."

Asked what she would tell her son, she said, "We did it, David. I pinch your round face."

The jury assessed damages against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Quranic Literacy Institute of suburban Oak Lawn and Mohammed Salah of suburban Bridgeview.

Both sides said a hard-fought appeal battle was guaranteed.

Amer Haleem, secretary of Quranic Literacy Institute which translates Islamic texts, left the courthouse saying the case was part of a wave of anti-Muslim hysteria.

He promised there would be "a vigorous appeal."

"It may wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court," said Boim attorney Stephen Landes.

U.S. law allows victims of overseas terrorist groups to sue American organizations that finance them. The Boims maintain Islamic charities have been raising money for guns and explosives in this country while using charity as a cover.

Boim attorneys said they hoped the verdict and other cases being filed under the same law would help to choke off the flow of money to terrorist groups in the Mideast.

The government already had frozen the assets of Holy Land, Quranic Literacy and Salah.

Salah and Holy Land are both currently under federal indictment on charges of stemming from their alleged support of Hamas.

There is little likelihood that the Boims will collect anything like $156 million.

Not only are the assets of three defendants frozen by the government but federal prosecutors are asking the court in Texas to order Holy Land to forfeit its assets.

"If there's any money there, we'll get it," Landes said.

Chicago Muslims raised the possibility that the verdict could have a negative effect on contributions to legitimate Islamic charities.

"People are hesitating to give to the needy and the poor, which is a fundamental issue in the Islamic religion," said Yaser Tabbara, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Lawyers for Holy Land, Islamic Association for Palestine and Salah boycotted the trial. Veteran Chicago defense attorney John Beal, representing Quranic Literacy, was ordered to be on hand but declined to address the jury or cross-examine witnesses.

He maintained that Keys didn't give his group enough time to mount a defense.

Holy Land attorney James Fennerty and Salah attorney Matthew Piers did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on the verdict Wednesday.

Salah has long been accused by the federal government of being a Hamas fund-raiser. He has said he is not a Hamas member, although he took the 5th Amendment when asked that question under oath in a deposition taken by lawyers for the Boim family.

A former FBI terrorism analyst who testified in the weeklong trial, Matthew Levitt, pointed to documents allegedly showing high-ranking Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook had funneled $985,000 to Salah just before he left for Israel in January 1993 at a time when Hamas had been crippled by the deportation of 400 activists to Lebanon.

Salah was arrested that month, pleaded guilty to bankrolling Hamas and spent five years in an Israeli prison. Levitt also testified that documents show in the early 1990s Saudi financier Yasin al-Kadi furnished a monthly salary to Salah and two Quranic Literacy officials.

Al-Kadi, whose name has appeared on government terrorism lists, also furnished hundreds of thousands of dollars to Quranic Literacy through a real estate developer, Levitt testified.

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