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29 Sep 2006

Phillip Inman, Guardian [UK]

NatWest loses first round in court case over charity linked to Hamas

NatWest [part of Royal Bank of Scotland] has lost the first battle in a court case brought by families of victims of suicide bombings in Israel seeking damages in the US courts after allegations that the British bank knowingly provided services to a charity linked to Hamas. A federal judge...[argued] that NatWest must defend the allegations. The suit, filed in the federal court in Brooklyn in January, made claims on behalf of 15 families of Americans wounded in attacks. It said NatWest...allowed the charity Interpal to raise funds on its website knowing the US government identified the charity as a fundraiser for Hamas...[NatWest] and Interpal, also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, have rejected the claims and in response the bank filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the bank said: "It is important to remember that Interpal has been fully cleared by the UK Charities Commission. "We are disappointed with the court's ruling and...will continue to vigorously defend our case." US district judge Charles Sifton ruled the bank's arguments, including that some transactions occurred long before any attack, were not strong enough to dismiss the case...Plaintiffs in the case include relatives of victims of a suicide bomber on a bus in Jerusalem on August 19 2003. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 20 people.