Radical media, politics and culture.

U.S. Judge Finds Islamic Groups Liable in West Bank Death

U.S. Judge Finds Islamic Groups Liable in West Bank Death
Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Two U.S. Islamic organizations and a man charged with bankrolling the Palestinian group Hamas were found liable for damages on Wednesday in the death of an American-born student gunned down in the West Bank in 1996.

"This ruling is very significant because it sends a message that organizations which try to pose as charities or individuals who are actually fronts for Hamas... run the risk of being held liable for harming people," said Stephen Landes, a lawyer who brought the suit on behalf of the victim's family.

He said it was the first ruling of its kind in a U.S. court. It means that a trial can proceed in December to determine the amount of damages.

While the family of the victim, David Boim, has asked for $300 million in damages, Landes said, those named in the suit may have no funds now. The point of the suit was not money, he added, but to "go after the domestic enablers of terrorism."

Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys of the U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled that the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association for Palestine and a Chicago area man, Mohammed Salah, were liable for damages in Boim's death.

Boim, 17, was shot and killed standing at a bus stop in the West Bank by two men who drove by in a car. His U.S.-born parents who live in Israel, Stanley and Joyce Boim, filed the civil damage suit.

The suit cited a 1992 U.S. law that permits victims of terrorism to seek civil damages against groups deemed responsible for the acts.

The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation along with seven of its directors and fund-raisers were indicted earlier this year on charges of supporting Hamas, money laundering and conspiracy.

Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) at the time said the charity was "funding the works of evil." But a lawyer for the group had called the charges bogus.

The foundation, once the largest U.S.-based Muslim charity, was shut down when the U.S. government seized its assets after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Not long after that the U.S. Treasury Department (news - web sites) designated the charity a terrorist group and froze its assets because it said the foundation funneled millions of dollars to Hamas -- which the U.S. government had declared to be a terrorist group in 1995.

The charity appealed the designation and the freezing of its assets but lost in court.

The Islamic Association for Palestine describes itself as an educational, political and social organization dedicated to Palestinian causes. Its U.S. headquarters is in Bridgeview, Illinois, near Chicago, which was also the home of Salah before his arrest.

Salah was arrested on Aug. 19 and charged along with two others with a racketeering conspiracy to funnel money to Hamas for the past 15 years.

Landes said the current head of Hamas published an article last year describing the Islamic Association for Palestine as "the first killer of Hamas." Landes said there is "no question (it) has acted for Hamas ever since it was founded."