Federal Judge Who Previously Rejected 9/11 Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia is Now Allowing Claims to Go Forward
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels rejected a motion by lawyers for Saudi Arabia to dismiss a lawsuit brought by businesses, insurance companies and families of victims who died or have suffered as the result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
This decision reverses an earlier ruling, in which Judge Daniels rejected plaintiff's arguments that the Saudi government had aided and abetted the attacks. He had also dismissed claims against two major Saudi Banks and the Saudi Bin-Ladin Group, the construction company owned and operated by Bin-Ladin family. Plaintiffs alleged that all three organizations had helped to fund the attacks.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2003, when plaintiffs alleged that employees of the Saudi government knowingly funded and provided assistance to the hijackers, providing money through charities that supported Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization associated with alleged mastermind Osama bin-Ladin. Of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks that day, 15 are known to have been Saudi nationals.
Recently declassified documents by the 9/11 Commission reveal that a number of Saudi officials were aware of the hijackers' identities after their arrival in the U.S., but found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the operation. The Commission did, however, find that a number of charities sponsored by the Saudi government were likely to have been used as money laundering operations for Al-Qaeda.
For several years, Saudi Arabia enjoyed sovereign immunity from lawsuits filed by plaintiffs in the U.S. That changed with the enactment of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Initially, the bill was vetoed by President Barack Obama, who warned that such a law would expose U.S. companies as well as the military and federal officials to lawsuits brought by foreign governments. The bill, nonetheless, became law when Congress was able to override the President's veto.
As a result of JASTA, lawsuits against Saudi Arabia are now able to go forward. Judge Daniels, who previously said he had no jurisdiction over the case, now asserts that plaintiffs “narrowly articulate a reasonable basis” for allowing him to preside over the case under the new statute.
James Kreindler, counsel for the plaintiffs, is pleased about Judge Daniels' ruling. “We have been pressing to proceed with the case and conduct discovery from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so that the full story can come to light, and expose the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks,” he says.
In addition to businesses and insurers who suffered major financial losses as a result of the attacks, the plaintiffs include approximately 25,000 individuals who lost family members that day.
At this point, the defense has had no comment.