A lawsuit accusing the Saudi Arabian government of complicity in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and seeking billions of dollars in damages, can go forward, a judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan dismissed Saudi Arabia’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of lack of proof of official complicity.
But Judge Daniels said the plaintiffs — victims’ relatives and their families — can “narrowly articulate a reasonable basis for this Court to assume jurisdiction under [the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act] over Plaintiffs’ claims against Saudi Arabia.”
Judge Daniels said he would “allow Plaintiffs limited jurisdictional discovery” of evidence against Saudi Arabia.
JASTA, passed by Congress in 2016 over President Barack Obama’s veto and Saudi warnings of damage to international relations, created an exception under U.S. law to claims of sovereign immunity by foreign governments. The new law allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments in federal court for acts that kill Americans on U.S. soil.
James Kreindler, a lawyer for many of the plaintiffs, told Reuters news agency he was “delighted” by the judge’s letting the lawsuit go ahead.
“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 told the British wire service.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Al Qaeda terrorists — 15 of them Saudi citizens — hijacked four planes and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. One crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, apparently ditching a planned attack on Congress because of a passenger uprising. All told, nearly 3,000 people were killed.
The 9-11 Commission absolved the Saudi government of official or direct complicity in the attacks, but said it could not rule out the possibility that “charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to Al-Qaeda.”
Judge Daniels did limit the plaintiffs’ case on the facts though.
He said he would allow the 9-11 families to argue that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the activities of an imam at King Fahd Mosque in California, and Omar al-Bayoumi, said to be an intelligence officer.
Mr. al-Bayoumi and imam Fahad al Thumairy purportedly helped two of the terrorists integrate into U.S. life and prepare for the attacks.
But he threw out as beyond his jurisdiction claims that two Saudi banks — National Commercial Bank and Al Rajhi Bank — and the construction company owned by the estranged family of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, had helped finance the attacks.