Saturday, December 06, 2008

7th Circuit En Banc Upholds Damages Against Muslim Groups For Financing Hamas

In Boim v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, (7 Cir., Dec. 3, 2008), in a 7-3 en banc decision, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held the American Muslim Society and the Quranic Literacy Society liable under 18 USC 2333. The statute, as interpreted by the court, permits the award of treble damages against those who donate funds to a terrorist group. The lawsuit was brought by parents of a Jewish teenager who, in 1996, was shot to death by members of Hamas in Israel. Finding no First Amendment problem even if a donor does not intend to further the illegal goals of an organization, the court said:
Anyone who knowingly contributes to the nonviolent wing of an organization that he knows to engage in terrorism is knowingly contributing to the organization’s terrorist activities. And that is the only knowledge that can reasonably be required as a premise for liability. To require proof that the donor intended that his contribution be used for terrorism—to make a benign intent a defense— would as a practical matter eliminate donor liability except in cases in which the donor was foolish enough to admit his true intent.
The court also said that donors to terrorism should not be able to escape liability just because "terrorists and their supporters launder donations trough a chain of intermediate organizations." The court also rejected the 7th Circuit panel's conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence to find Hamas was responsible the teenager's death.

The court remanded for further trial the question of liability of the Holy Land Foundation, finding that the district court had wrongly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel in holding it liable. The court reversed the judgment against an individual, Muhammad Salah, because his contributions pre-dated the effective date of a critical portion of the statutes under which the suit was brought. Judges Rovner, Williams and Wood dissented in two separate opinions. Bloomberg and IPT News both reported on the decision earlier this week. [Thanks to Jewish Delaware for the lead.]