Widow of terrorist cannot collect insurance, court rules

Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad [File photo]

Ontario’s top court has ruled that the widow of a Palestinian terrorist may not collect on his life insurance policy because he hid his violent past.

Fadia Khalil Mohammad is not entitled to the $75,000 payout because her husband, Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a Palestinian terrorist who lived in Canada for 26 years, “intentionally withheld” information on his application for the insurance policy, the Ontario Court of Appeal found.

In a decision released on Jan. 29, the three-judge panel overturned a lower court ruling that had found in favour of the widow, partly because the insurance application form had not asked about her husband’s immigration status or citizenship.

Mohammad knew that his past activities were relevant to his application for life insurance, the appeal court stated in its short ruling, and that withholding key details “is sufficient to establish fraud.”

The insurer, Manufacturers Life Insurance Co., “cannot be faulted” for not having inquired into Mohammad’s past, it added.

In 1968, Mohammad and a second gunman from the Popular Front for the Libertion of Palestine (PFLP) attacked an El Al airplane at the airport in Athens, Greece. Mohammad strafed the plane with gunfire and hurled incendiary grenades. One passenger, Leon Shirdan, a 50-year-old Israeli marine engineer en route to New York, was killed.

Arrested at the scene, Mohammad was sentenced to 17 years in jail for manslaughter and other offences. He was freed in a deal when Palestinian terrorists stormed a Greek airliner and threatened to kill the passengers.

Mohammad moved to Canada in 1987, settling in Brantford, Ont. On his application for a visa, he declared he had never been convicted of any offence.

The court of appeal said he came to this country “fraudulently by using an alias.”

In 1988, an immigration adjudicator ordered him removed but it wasn’t until 2013 that he was deported to Lebanon. Mohammad died from lung cancer in 2015 at the age of 72.

In its ruling, the high court stated Mohammad took out the policy in April 1987 because he needed it to obtain a mortgage. He provided a social insurance number and said he had just moved to Canada from Spain.

Canadian Insurance laws require applicants to disclose all facts material to a policy. Mohammad’s past actions “were material to the risk that he posed for the purpose of having his life insured,” the court held.

The court pointed out that shortly after he applied for the policy, Mohammad filed an affidavit in his immigration proceedings saying his life would be in danger if he were deported to Israel.

“He was well aware that his past activities, coupled with his illegal entry into Canada, put him at serious risk of physical harm.”

Mohammad “hid his past activities” from the insurer, “just as he hid them from the Government of Canada when he sought entry to this country,” the court ruling states.

A spokesperson for Manulife said the company does not comment on litigation and cannot discuss specific details of any individual.