Bus stop (illustration photo)
Photo: Effie Shrir
A United States federal appeals court on Friday overturned a $156 million award against US-based Muslim activists for their involvement in the terrorist death of an American teenager in the West Bank more than a decade ago.
The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the judge in the case had failed to require the parents of 17-year-old David Boim to properly show a link between the boy's shooting death by Hamas - a group designated by the US as a terror organization - and the fundraising activities of the charities.
Because of that error, it sent the case back for a possible new trial.
The Boims' attorney, Nathan Lewin, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
''This court of appeals decision is wrong, very wrong,'' Lewin said. ''It amounts to encouragement of financial contributions to terrorist organizations.''
Stanley and Joyce Boim had sued the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development; the American Muslim Society, also known as the Islamic Association for Palestine; the Quranic Literacy Institute, and Mohamed Salah, and an alleged Hamas fundraiser.
Their son, a yeshiva student, was gunned down in 1996 while waiting with other students at a bus stop in Beit El, on the West Bank.
A federal court jury in 2004 ruled in their favor and awarded them $52 million in damages in one of the first jury awards against US-based institutions accused of supporting terrorism.
In accordance with US anti-terrorism law, a federal magistrate subsequently tripled the amount of the damages levied against the defendants, who had all denied financing terrorism.
The ruling in 2004 came in addition to a crackdown against a group of US-based Islamic charities and others who saw their assets frozen and, in some cases, faced federal charges for allegedly funding groups deemed by the US as terrorist organizations.
The case against the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in the country when it was shut down in 2001, was the government's biggest terror-financing case since the Sept. 11 attacks. Authorities closed it down after accusing it of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas. Several people connected to the group were charged.
But, in a blow to the government, the case ended in a mistrial after none of the group's leaders was convicted and many acquittals were tossed out in October after some jurors took the rare step of disputing the verdict.
Salah was sentenced in July to 21 months in federal prison. He was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying under oath on a written questionnaire involving David Boim's death, stemming from the civil lawsuit filed by the teen's parents.
The jury, however, acquitted Salah of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy aimed at bankrolling Hamas.