WASHINGTON, 20 January 2005 — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, three Saudi princes, several Saudi businessmen and Saudi financial institutions were dismissed as defendants on Tuesday in lawsuits accusing them of supporting Al-Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Casey cited the report by the Sept. 11 Commission, which found no evidence that Saudi leaders provided support to the hijackers.
“The US State Department has not designated the Kingdom a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Judge Casey.
He specifically dismissed as defendants Prince Sultan, second deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation; Saudi Ambassador to Britain Prince Turki Al-Faisal; Prince Mohammed Al-Faisal, Sheikh Saleh Kamel and Dallah Al-Baraka, among others.
The 9/11 lawsuits allege more than 200 defendants provided material support to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
Prince Turki said he was happy that the court rejected all charges against him. “The charges were not true at all. I spent a long time after Osama Bin Laden to bring him to justice”. He said he considered Bin Laden an evil man who violated Islamic rules by killing innocent people.
Prince Turki thanked the American justice system that acquitted him of all charges.
“The court has reviewed the complaints in their entirety and finds no allegations from which it can infer that the princes knew the charities to which they donated were fronts for Al-Qaeda,” Casey said. “There are no such factual bases presented, there are only conclusions.”
“This should restore confidence in the Kingdom about the American justice system,” said Martin McMahon, a Washington-based lawyer who represents several of the defendants in the lawsuits. “The judge granted a motion to dismiss this case. In our case it was granted because the plaintiffs failed to state a claim that could be granted. Which means they didn’t have a case,” said McMahon, head of McMahon Associates.
Among financial institutions dismissed as defendants were Al-Rajhi Bank, Saudi American Bank, Arab Bank, and Al-Baraka Investment and Development Corporation.
Casey said he found no basis for a bank’s liability for injuries resulting from attacks funded by money passing through it on routine banking business.
“The judge ruled that just because you’re a bank, or investing in a bank, through which money travels that allegedly was funneled to terrorists groups, it is not enough to file a claim against that defendant,” said Wendell Belew, who also represents defendants in the 9/11 lawsuits.
“In the case of our clients, Saleh Kamel and Dallah Al-Baraka, the allegations were that they invested in various banks,” said Belew of the DC-based Belew Law Firm. “The judge decided that was not sufficient to establish any kind of liability.”
But they say the 9/11 lawsuits have tarnished the Saudi businessmen’s international reputation. “With regard to Saleh Kamel, many of the allegations made in the complaint were not factually true,” said McMahon.
“Sheikh Saleh and other individuals in this case have been accused of horrendous crimes. Where do they go to restore their reputations?” said McMahon.
Tuesday’s dismissal did not mention several Islamic charities listed in the 9/11 lawsuits, that alleges Saudi money was given to Islamic charities to fund terrorism
“Although this is a favorable decision, it is by no means the end of problems for Saudi Arabia and others mentioned in the lawsuits,” said McMahon.
“On the other hand, just because a party did not get dismissed at this stage, it does not mean that they will not prevail, but it does mean they will have to put up a vigorous defense,” said Belew.
The judge permitted lawsuits to proceed against the Saudi Binladen Group, the successor to a construction company founded by Bin Laden’s father, which is now one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the Arab world.
He said additional legal materials would be necessary to decide whether the Saudi Binladen Group “purposefully directed its activities at the United States.”