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Wednesday, July 7, 2004



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COURTESY COURTNEY LINDE
Courtney Linde is shown in this undated photo with her late husband, John Linde Jr., who joined a security firm in Israel to help pay for her recovery from cancer.




Arab Bank sued
over U.S. deaths

A former isle woman joins
other families in charging
the bank financed terrorists


A former Hawaii resident whose husband was killed in a Gaza Strip bombing has joined five families in filing an $875 million lawsuit, claiming that the Arab Bank aided terrorism by paying life insurance to relatives of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Airman 1st Class Courtney Linde, who formerly lived in Hawaii Kai, is seeking compensation from the bank for the death of her husband, John Linde Jr., 30, a private security consultant, in an Oct. 15 terrorist bombing of a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the Israeli-occupied territory.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Brooklyn, charges that Arab Bank set up accounts to channel funds from an organization run by the Saudi government, the Saudi Committee for Supporting Al Quds Intifada, to at least two militant Palestinian groups, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

According to the lawsuit, Arab Bank administered an insurance program that provided a standard benefit worth $5,316.06 to the families of Palestinians who were killed in attacks on Israel, including those who blew themselves up.

The lawsuit charges that bank officials knew that the funds passing through their accounts would support or encourage violence against civilians.

Calls yesterday to the headquarters of Arab Bank Group in Amman and to Nofal Barbar, described on the bank's Web site as an executive vice president at the branch at 520 Madison Ave. in New York, were not returned.

The suit is a new attempt to untangle the financial web tying the Saudi government to militant Palestinian groups that have tolerated or openly claimed terrorist attacks in Israel. The Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, is the supervisor of the Saudi Committee named in the court documents.

Saudi officials have said that the aid they supply through the committee is used only for humanitarian purposes, like buying food and ambulances, and providing support for widows and children. In the early months of the Palestinian uprising in 2002, top Saudi officials spoke proudly of millions of dollars of aid they were sending to "the families of the martyrs."

Arab Bank, with $24 billion in assets and branches in Europe and the United States, has branches throughout the Palestinian territories. Mark Werbner, the lead lawyer in the suit, said the bank "facilitated an efficient distribution of funds" to militant groups across the territories.

"We have a mountain of evidence that will prove that the bank not only knows about the terror financing, but is actively involved and using its New York branch to launder the money," Werbner said.

Werbner said there were documents seized by Israeli police at an Arab Bank in February that indicated the bank was used to launder money.

According to the suit, Arab Bank distributed death benefits from the Saudi Committee to the families of at least 200 Palestinians killed in attacks on Israel in its first year of operations, after October 2000.

Courtney Linde's mother, Lyn Brown of Maui, said her daughter filed the lawsuit because she wanted to stop financial institutions from backing terrorists.

"We are hoping that this lawsuit will force banks to stop this terrorists' support," Brown said.

"John was a wonderful and gentle person, but he was also a Marine, and I know he would have wanted me to fight for him," Courtney Linde, 22, said in statement yesterday.

John Linde had taken the job with a private security firm to help to defray the medical cost anticipated in Courtney's battle against bone cancer. She had been recuperating from surgery to replace her right femur and patella with a titanium rod and knee cap.

Werbner said he admired Linde and other plaintiffs because he knows that taking the legal action comes at a "high emotional cost" of revisiting the loss and hurt caused by terrorists.

Werbner said Linde was at the hospital yesterday and received a report that said she was free of cancer.

"We're very happy to hear about that," he said.


Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota, the New York Times News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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