Judge dismisses 9/11 charges against Saudi Arabia

By Julian Hattem - 09/30/15 09:51 AM EDT

A federal judge has dropped Saudi Arabia from a lawsuit brought by family members of people killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack who had sought to implicate the country in the attack.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York declared that the families had failed to provide enough evidence linking Saudi leaders to the incident, closing one chapter in what has been a years-long legal effort to implicate the kingdom.

“The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over [the] defendants,” Daniels wrote in a filing on Tuesday.

“The broad allegations turn in large part on speculative opinions.”

The families failed to show that people acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia funneled money to al Qaeda ahead of the attack, Daniels concluded, and as such could not overcome the country’s sovereign immunity.

Daniels also dismissed charges against the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a charity group controlled by Saudi Arabia.

The case was first filed in 2003 and has sought billions of dollars in damages for the families of the victims.

Saudi Arabia was previously dropped from the list of defendants in 2005, due to foreign countries’ immunity from prosecution, but that determination was overturned in 2013.

Among the other claims that Daniels rejected as insufficient was testimony from the man who would have been the 20th Sept. 11 hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, who had claimed a Saudi prince supported him during his studies at flight school. Moussaoui had also alleged that the Saudi prince had supported some of the other al Qaeda members who hijacked the planes.

Saudi Arabia has long been a suspect for people looking to map out the intricate web of funding and support for al Qaeda. Fifteen of the al Qaeda hijackers were Saudi citizens.

Some Saudi critics have pushed for the public release of 28 secret pages from a congressional report into the Sept. 11 attacks, which they say implicates the Saudi royal family. That report is different from the 9/11 Commission, which denied a link between Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda.

“We cannot let page after page of blanked-out documents be obscured by a veil,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a presidential candidate, said during a Capitol Hill press conference pushing for the pages' release earlier this year. “We owe it to these families, and we cannot let this lack of transparency erode trust and make us feel less secure.”

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a leader of the congressional inquiry, has said he believes the pages show Saudi complicity for the attacks.

Lawyers repeatedly used the 9/11 Commission's report as evidence in their suit.

Daniels ruled that the link to Saudi Arabia was “speculative” and “cannot be the basis” for a legal finding.

According to The Associated Press, a lawyer for the families pledged to appeal the decision.

"Evidence central to these claims continues to be treated as classified,” Sean Carter said. “The government's decision to continue to classify that material certainly factored into this outcome.”


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