Saudi Arabia’s bid to dismiss lawsuits claiming that it helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has been rejected by a U.S. judge. U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said the plaintiffs’ allegations provide a reasonable basis for him to assert jurisdiction over Saudi Arabia under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Lawyers for Saudi Arabia have not commented on the decision.
The plaintiffs claim that the Saudi Arabian government knowingly assisted hijackers who carried out the attacks. During the attack, hijacked airplanes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died, roughly 25,000 people suffered injuries, and many businesses were damaged or destroyed. Fifteen of the 19 attackers were Saudis.
A collection of more than 800 people who were hurt in the attacks or had loved ones killed filed the lawsuit roughly a year ago. The group is seeking monetary damages from the Saudi Arabian government. James Kreindler, a lawyer for many of the plaintiffs, said, “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.”
The court ruling now opens the gates for the Saudi government to pay billions of dollars in damages to victims. The country has long denied involvement in the attacks. Saudi Arabia argued that the plaintiffs could not show that any Saudi official, employee or agent planned or carried out the attacks.
During the hearing, the judge dismissed claims that two Saudi banks and Saudi Binladin Group, a construction company controlled by the bin Laden family, provided funds and financial services for the attacks. The judge also dismissed claims against the state-affiliated charity Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Saudi Arabia had immunity from Sept. 11 lawsuits in the United States prior to 2016. In September of that year, the U.S. Congress overrode President Barack Obama’s veto of JASTA, allowing the case against Saudi Arabia to begin. Obama had warned that the law could expose U.S. companies, troops, and officials to lawsuits in other countries.