Judge hands down lower bond in Palestinian terror case after U.S. request

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag protests during a rally in Rome on July 27, 2006, to show solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian people.

Story highlights

  • Lawyers for the Americans in the case vowed to appeal the decision.
  • The State Department had said in a filing in the case that too high a cost on the Palestinians could destabilize the region.

Washington (CNN)A federal judge has handed down a $10 million bond judgment in a closely watched case over restitution from Palestinians for terrorism -- a ruling substantially lower than the Americans suing asked for.

The decision comes after the U.S. government intervened in the case earlier this month, urging the court to consider a lower bond in order to not bankrupt the Palestinian Authority, which the State Department said was essential as a stabilizing entity in the volatile region.
New York District Judge George Daniels on Monday ordered the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization to pay $10 million by next month and $1 million per month thereafter to continue with an appeal of a $655 million ruling against them by a jury in February. The jury determined the PA and PLO were responsible for terror attacks in the early 2000s, and awarded the families of American victims hundreds of millions of dollars.
    The lawyers for the families had argued the PA should pay far more than that to continue with an appeal of the ruling -- asking for $30 million monthly payments. They say now that a court has found the PA liable for the attacks at trial, the Palestinian government should be required to pay a substantial amount to keep going with their challenge of the judgment.
    They vowed to appeal the bond.
    "This order from the judge on the bond is really very disappointing," said attorney Robert Tolchin. "What's $10 million? This is a government that ... runs a territory. There are lots of individuals, hedge fund guys, who could put this up without even thinking. Donald Trump could put this up in his sleep. ... This is like a rounding error, $1 million a month: It's a mosquito on an elephant."
    But in a statement, an attorney representing the Palestinians lauded the court's judgment.
    "The PA and PLO appreciate the court's careful consideration of these important issues, and is taking measures to comply on a timely basis with the court's directives," attorney Gassan Baloul said.
    Despite the plaintiff's push for a high bond, the State Department earlier this month filed a brief in the case suggesting the court should grant more leniency.
    Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in the filing that a substantial bond could bankrupt the PA, which would be a major foreign policy and national security risk.
    "An event that deprives the PA of a significant portion of its revenues would likely severely compromise the PA's ability to operate as a governmental authority," he wrote. "The collapse of the PA would undermine several decades of U.S. foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region, compromising national security."
    Though the State Department also repeatedly made clear in the filing that the government supports compensation for the families of victims of terror attacks and noted that the government is not formally opposing the multimillion-dollar judgment in favor of the victims, the intervention in the case disappointed the plaintiffs' lawyers and several politicians, including New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. The No. 3 Senate Democrat, who is also opposing the administration on its nuclear deal with Iran, had implored the government to stay out of the case.
    "For the government to come in now and say, essentially, we don't care about the outcome of our justice system, we want to put our thumb on the scale and rig the system for the temporary expedience of whatever in the moment, that's sheer hypocrisy," Tolchin said. "What's the message we send the world?"