The Palestinian Authority’s assets in the United States have been frozen after it failed to pay a USD 116 million judgment in a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of a couple killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.
The order has made it difficult for the Authority to keep its office in Washington going, according to Hasan Abdel Rahman, head of
The U.S. District Court in Rhode Island last year ordered the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization to pay the money to several relatives of Yaron and Efrat Ungar. The Ungars were killed in June 1996 by as Hamas terrorist.
The suit, filed in Rhode Island in 2000, alleged that the Palestinian Authority and PLO provided a safe haven and operational base for Hamas. Yaron Ungar was an American citizen, and his relatives live in Israel.
The Palestinian Authority did not oppose the suit, arguing that it has sovereign immunity under international law and to appear in court would compromise that sovereignty, said Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. Attorney general who is representing the Palestinians.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year upheld the default decision, and the Palestinians have until October to ask the Supreme Court for a review.
'It paralyzes the function of the office'
In April, David Strachman, the lawyer for the Ungars' relatives, asked the court to freeze any assets held in the United States by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. He said they were liquidating their investments, placing them out of reach of American courts should the judgment stand.
The following month, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux granted the request, issuing an injunction preventing the authority and the PLO from using any of its assets in the United States.
Rahman said he has been unable to pay the nine employees in his office for the past three months. The monthly budget for the office is about USD 50,000 he said.
"It paralyzes the function of the office, and I think that is the intention of the plaintiffs,” Rahman said.
Rahman said President George W. Bush had made it clear that it was in the best interest of the United States to keep the office open, and he was hopeful the government would intervene.
"I was told the State Department is studying ways in which they will help and I would hope that would be very soon,” he said.
"They have a very genuine interest in having this office function normally, and they know, they realize, that this situation makes the normal function of this office rather unfeasible,” Rahman added.
Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the State Department, said the government was aware of the case and had been asked to intervene by the Palestinian Authority. He would not say whether any decisions had been made, saying the matter was still before the courts.