Israel-based group using the courts to weaken terrorist groups - Tucson News Now

Israel-based group using the courts to weaken suspected terrorist groups

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Hitting terrorist groups where it hurts now means more than using guns and missiles.

Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center uses U.S. anti-terror law to go after those who aid terrorist groups, knowingly or unknowingly.

The Israel Law Center's motto is "Bankrupting terrorism--one lawsuit at a time."

You might wonder how you sue a terror group.

It's not easy.

What the Israel Law Center finds more effective is to sue banks, insurance companies, corporations, even countries that knowingly or unknowingly work with terror groups.

For instance, it could be a bank that holds an account that's used to fund a terrorist group, or even an insurance company that might insure a ship a terror group uses.

Leonard Hammer is with the Israel Law Center, and is a visiting professor at the University of Arizona.

"Our notion is if we go and sue enough organizations, corporations, states that are sponsoring terror or that are supporting terror, or I might even add, they might not even be aware that they're sponsoring terror or that they're providing assistance to an organization--I'll give you an example in a second--then that would cut off the head, if you will, of the terror groups. They would not be able to operate efficiently," Hammer says.

The example to which Hammer referred was Australia which, he says, was unwittingly giving money to a terror group it thought was a legitimate non-profit organization.

Hammer says the Israel Law Center alerted Australia to the situation.

The center sues on behalf of terrorism victims.

Hammer says even an organization like Al Qaeda is vulnerable if a lawsuit against a bank, for instance, keeps the group from accessing its money or being able to transfer money from one country to another.

"And if we file enough lawsuits and we freeze enough funding--which we have been doing--then at the very least, corporations and those sponsoring terror will think to themselves and say, 'hmm, maybe we shouldn't, maybe we shouldn't have these fundings flow through our accounts'--even though they might be millions and millions and millions of dollars--because they're going to be subject to liability," Hammer says.

Hammer says the threat of civil or criminal lawsuits has narrowed the number of businesses and other organizations that might want to have anything to do with a suspected terrorist group.

He says the center has won almost $1.5 billion in judgments against terror organizations or third parties that are associated with them.

Of that money, he says $600 million in terror group assets have been frozen, and the center has collected more than $150 on behalf of terror victims.

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