A federal judge has dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks who accused the kingdom of providing material support to Al-Qaeda.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has sovereign immunity from damage claims by families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks and from insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses. He also dismissed as a defendant the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the grounds that the charity is an instrument of Saudi Arabia and thus covered as well by sovereign immunity.
The judge wrote that evidence would have to show that Saudi Arabia or its officials took actions to support the terrorist plot.
Saudi Arabia was dropped as a defendant nine years ago by a judge who said it was protected by sovereign immunity, but a federal appeals court in December 2013 reinstated it, saying a legal exception existed and the circumstances were extraordinary.
Relatives allege that Saudi agents provided the hijackers with assistance, including helping two of them with accommodation in the U.S.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. government’s 9/11 Commission said in a 2003 report that there was no evidence Saudi Arabia funded Al-Qaeda.
In June, attorney Michael Kellogg, a lawyer for Saudi Arabia, argued that the kingdom had nothing to do with the attacks and that the families’ cases should be dismissed.
Sean Carter, a plaintiffs' lawyer, said, "Obviously, we respectfully disagree with the court's ruling." He promised an appeal.
"Evidence central to these claims continues to be treated as classified. The government's decision to continue to classify that material certainly factored into this outcome," he said.