US legal firms filed a lawsuit against Turkish banking giant Kuveyt Turk Katilim Bankasi on Monday, accusing it of “aiding and abetting” Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, Osen, and MM lawfirms filed the suit in the Eastern District of New York.
“One of the bank’s largest shareholders is the Government of Turkey, which has permitted Hamas to operate within its borders,” an announcement by the firms read.
“This case is one of many seeking to bring justice against international banks that have provided material support to or aided and abetted terrorist organisations,” it added.
The lawsuit was triggered by the Henkin family after the murders of Eitam Henkin and Naama Henkin in the West Bank by Hamas operatives in October 2015. Their four children, who are seeking damages from the bank, were injured in the attack.
Papers filed by the family’s legal team claim that between 2012 and 2015 the Kuveyt Bank “aided and abetted Hamas knowing its own role in facilitating funds transfers through the international and US financial systems” while being fully aware of the group’s “violent activities.”
The lawsuit also names financial institutions in New York that Kuveyt bank used to facilitate these transactions. The bank “purposefully and knowingly used its correspondent bank accounts in New York to facilitate US dollar-denominated funds transfers for Hamas benefit,” it said. It claims that “Turkey has long been a major political and financial supporter of Hamas”, and that the government is a shareholder in the bank.
It comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits New York for the United Nations General Assembly. There was no formal meeting scheduled between US President Donald Trump and Mr Erdogan but the two were expected to hold an informal meeting on the margins of UNGA.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have deteriorated following Russia’s deployment of the S-400 missile defense system in Turkish territory over the summer. Turkey acquired the system despite US objections and the threat of sanctions. The two also have differences over Syria as Turkey seeks a wide safe zone in the North to seal off its border, while the US has begrudgingly agreed to a more vague arrangement that would bring Turkish-US cooperation in the area.