Memories of the terror attacks of 9/11 surfaced Wednesday as a jury was selected in federal court in Brooklyn to hear a lawsuit in which Jordan's Arab Bank is accused of providing financial services to Hamas.
One potential juror was a sanitation worker from Staten Island who lost a firefighter friend in the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Another potential juror also lost a friend that day, and another an uncle.
Those attacks almost 13 years ago, "are an entirely unrelated set of events," Judge Brian Cogan told the jury panel before they were seated, and he instructed them to consider only the evidence in this lawsuit.
Each potential juror had spent Monday filling out a lengthy questionnaire, which was not made public, and Cogan asked each one some broad questions and followed up with private questions for a few people at the side of his bench.
There was no mention during Wednesday's court session of the current hostilities between Israel and the Hamas group that now controls neighboring Gaza Strip.
Opening statements are scheduled for Thursday in the case, which began in 2004 when 39 people sued for monetary damages after they lost family members to terrorist attacks by Hamas militants in the Middle East. The lawsuit now has almost 300 claimants.
The judge has given each side up to two hours to present their opening statements in a trial that could last up to six weeks.
It is the first case to go to trial in which a financial institution is accused of handling transactions for a terrorist group.
The bank argues it never knowingly did business with terrorists. But a pretrial ruling in the case, by another judge, will limit the bank's defense as a penalty for failing to provide documents during pretrial discovery.
The bank said Jordanian law prohibits the release of the information, but it lost its appeal on that point in June when the U.S. Supreme Court let the judge's decision stand.