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Saudi Arabia dropped from 9/11 case

September 30, 2015

Claims against Saudi Arabia for its role in the 9/11 attacks have been dismissed. The plaintiffs' lawyers have argued that the US government's decision to keep certain evidence classified hindered their case.

An American flag is stuck into the etched name of a vicitim of the Semptember 11 attacks at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City
Image: AP

A US judge dismissed claims on Tuesday against Saudi Arabia in lawsuits brought by the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The defendants accused Saudi Arabia of aiding al Qaeda with financial and material support.

US District Court Judge George Daniels ruled that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence to override Saudi Arabia's sovereign immunity.

"The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants," Daniels wrote in his ruling.

He maintained that the plaintiffs' evidence would have to sufficiently prove that the Gulf state or its officials actively supported the terrorist plot that killed about 3,000 people 14 years ago.

Daniels also dismissed new evidence from Zacarias Moussaoui, known as the "20th hijacker," who claimed that a Saudi prince financially supported him during flight school and also gave large amounts of money to some of the attackers. Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Classified evidence

"Obviously, we respectfully disagree with the court's ruling," said Sean Carter, one of the plaintiff's lawyers. He also promised to appeal. Lawyers on both sides of the case have frequently referenced the report by the 9/11 Commission, but certain evidence remained out of reach for the plaintiffs.

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

Michael Kellogg, one of the defense lawyers for Saudi Arabia, declined to comment on Tuesday.

The lawsuits began in 2002 and sought billions of dollars in damages against countries, banks and organizations that defendants had accused of helping al Qaeda. Several courts have previously ruled that Saudi Arabia was protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, but the case was reinstated in 2013, after another court allowed a case to continue against Afghanistan.

rs/mkg (AP, Reuters)