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U.S. top court turns away Arab Bank appeal

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left intact a lower court ruling against Jordan-based Arab Bank Plc for failing to supply documents in lawsuits accusing it of providing services to groups the United States brands as terrorist organizations.

The court rejected Arab Bank's appeal of a U.S. federal judge's ruling. Plaintiffs accuse the bank of providing banking services to front groups for Hamas and other militant groups the United States has put on its list of terrorist organizations.

Arab Bank said the judge's ruling was forcing it to choose between running afoul of the U.S. court and violating bank secrecy laws in Jordan, Lebanon and other countries.

The lawsuits were brought by U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who were the victims or the family members of victims of attacks blamed on Hamas in Israel and the Palestinian territories between 1994 and 2005.

Gary Osen, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement the case was now likely to go to trial, scheduled to begin on Aug. 11. "Our clients have waited 10 years for this moment," he said.

The bank said in a statement that the Supreme Court's action "is not a determination on the merits of the case" and said it was confident it would "ultimately prevail."

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2013 upheld the decision against Arab Bank by U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon, who ruled that a jury could take into account the fact the bank had withheld certain documents when reaching a verdict.In court filings, Arab Bank cited a finding by a different U.S. District Court judge whom it says ruled on the same evidence in another case that there was no proof that anything but routine financial services were provided to charities alleged to be front organizations. That judge found that many of the same entities received grants from the U.S. government when they held accounts with Arab Bank, the filings said.

The Obama administration had urged the court not to hear the Arab Bank case.

The case is Arab Bank v. Linde, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1485.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham, Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)

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