Saudi Charity Head Accused of Funding Al-Qaeda Prior to 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Granted Immunity because Saudi Royal Family Asked for It

A Saudi official caught up in an ongoing lawsuit over the September 11 attacks has once again been removed as a defendant by a U.S. federal judge after the Saudi government requested his immunity.

Abdul Rahman Al-Swailem, former president of two charities, the Saudi Joint Relief Committee (SJRC) and the Saudi Red Crescent Society, was accused in a 9/11 lawsuit of supporting Al-Qaeda before the terrorist attacks. He was also accused of appointing an Al-Qaeda figure as a SJRC director. The legal action against Al-Swailem is part of what is described as a “vast multi-district” lawsuit against hundreds of defendants who are claimed to have provided support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to Courthouse News Service.

Al-Swailem got himself removed from the civil case in 2010 when a federal judge tossed the complaint out altogether. But on appeal the litigation was restored by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which put Al-Swailem back as a defendant. So he again asked to be removed, as did the Saudi Royal Family, which rules Saudi Arabia, saying Al-Swailem’s position as head of the charities entitled him to diplomatic immunity due to the charities being agencies of the Saudi government.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted Al-Swailem’s motion last week, ruling he was entitled to immunity.

“Here, the Saudi government, through its ambassador, has requested that this court grant common law sovereign immunity to Al-Swailem, and has declared that all alleged actions were taken by Al-Swailem in his official capacity as head of the SRC and the SJRC,” Daniels wrote.

“The conclusory allegations in the complaint do not strip Al-Swailem of conduct-based immunity for actions taken in his official capacity. The only non-conclusory allegation, regarding Al-Swailem’s hiring decision, is an action taken in his official capacity - not his personal - capacity. Thus, Al-Swailem is entitled to common law, conduct-based sovereign immunity.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


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