Credit Lyonnais SA may have to face a trial over claims by victims of Middle East attacks that the bank aided a Hamas affiliate, a U.S. judge ruled.
About 200 victims and family members affected by 14 separate attacks in Israel and Palestinian territories can move forward with their case, said U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry in Brooklyn, New York.
The victims are seeking damages from Credit Lyonnais, a unit of France’s third-largest bank, under the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, which allows U.S. citizens to pursue liability claims against parties who aid terrorists. The bank handled accounts for a Paris-based group that U.S. officials described in 2003 as a fundraiser for Hamas, according to yesterday’s order.
The victims sued over 15 attacks they say were linked to Hamas. The judge found there wasn’t enough evidence to allow claims to move forward for one of the incidents.
“There is sufficient admissible evidence for a reasonable jury to determine that Hamas committed all of the 15 attacks except for one attack,” Irizarry said in the order.
The lawsuit relates to attacks that occurred from March 2002 to late September 2004. Credit Lyonnais closed the account for the group, a relief organization called Comite de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestinien, in August 2003, according to the order.
“The decision is very gratifying for the victims of terrorism and their families and it’s a critical step toward their ultimate goal of presenting their case to a jury,” Gary Osen, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a e-mail.
Charlotte McMullen, a spokeswoman for Credit Lyonnais’s Montrouge, France-based parent, Credit Agricole SA, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail yesterday after regular business hours seeking comment on the ruling.
The case is Strauss v. Credit Lyonnais SA, 06-cv-00702, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).