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In one of the key moments of the Arab Bank terrorism-finance trial, plaintiffs showed a video on Tuesday in which a top Hamas official told a conference of the Union of Good, the umbrella Hamas-funding group, that they were a room full of terrorists.
Hamas expert Dr. Matthew Levitt, who may be the key witness in the case, testified that the Saudi Committee, to which Arab Bank transferred a great deal of money, is essentially an alter ego of Hamas’s Union of Good in a “web of charity organizations” providing cover for the funds’ terrorist purposes.
On Thursday, 297 plaintiffs and Arab Bank defense lawyers made opening statements in what could be a watershed terrorist finance trial, with the plaintiffs telling the jury that “you will see bank records in black and white that say ‘Hamas’” as proof that the bank knew it was being used to fund terrorism.
One of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers, Mark Werbner, said before New York Federal Judge Brian Cogan that evidence would show that the bank required “all their employees to donate 5 percent of their salaries” to the second intifada.
The case involves allegations that Arab Bank, essentially Jordan’s sovereign bank and one of the largest in the Middle East, with branches in 30 countries, facilitated massive transfer of funds to Hamas leaders and institutions, as well as to the families of imprisoned Hamas members and suicide bombers, via Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah’s al-Shahid Foundation, mostly between 1998 and 2004.
Arab Bank has said there is a lack of proof the money went to terrorists, that the money contributed directly and sufficiently to terrorist attacks and that the bank had any knowledge of a connection to terrorism.
Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst and deputy assistant secretary for intelligence at the US Treasury, has written about Hamas and testified in cases relating to the terrorist group in the past.
Levitt said he was there to help the jury learn “Hamas 101,” telling them that the funds in question were “absolutely essential, it is the lifeblood” for terrorist groups.
He went through a veritable Rolodex of Hamas leaders that the US and other countries designated as terrorists, repeatedly being asked to spell out their names by the court reporter.
Levitt talked about the charities working with Hamas, saying, “These weren’t stove-piped entities.
There’s a network working together.”
He said that the charities operating under Hamas’s umbrella don’t “put a shingle out there” that says Hamas in the EU or the US, but they openly publicize it in the Palestinian areas.
The political, charitable and militant terrorist branches of Hamas work together and support each other like three legs of a stool, he said.
Levitt took aim at the bank’s main defense, according to which it allegedly checked US terrorist watch-lists, and since the terrorists who received funds from the bank were not listed it could not be liable – though his attack was subsequently stricken from the official record.
“If someone’s not designated, [it] doesn’t mean they’re on a white list,” Levitt said. “Just checking the Treasury list is absolutely insufficient.”
On the flip side, the bank could argue that most of the entities Levitt mentioned were designated after the time at issue in this case.
The bank might also say that much of the source material that Levitt used in his testimony is from a later date than the time frame at issue in this case.
For example, information Levitt included regarding German designation of certain fund recipients as terrorists and related intelligence, were neither publicly available nor necessarily accessible to banks during the time covered in the case.
Besides Levitt’s testimony, graphic footage was shown to explain Hamas’s ideology, including images of children dressed as soldiers, with one child dressed as a mock suicide bomber with fake dynamite strapped to his chest, as well as mock kidnappings of an Israeli solider.
Another expert on the organizational structure of Hamas, Evan Kohlmann, testified on Monday.
The trial continues next week with the plaintiffs’ case expected to run for all or most of the week.