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9/11 Victims’ Effort to Blame Saudis Thwarted

(CN) - A federal judge this week put to rest a decade-long effort to pin responsibility for the 9/11 attacks on the Saudi government and a prominent Saudi charity.

The plaintiffs in the case - families of victims, individuals injured by the attacks and businesses that suffered damage - did not persuade the court that it had jurisdiction to strip the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina of their immunity.

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels nixed the plaintiffs' motion to apply the noncommercial tort exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protects foreign sovereigns from prosecution, reaffirming previous rulings on the issue.

In 2005 U.S. District Judge Casey ruled that the defendants had immunity and dismissed the claims. The Second Circuit affirmed the ruling in 2008 but partially overruled it in 2011, and in 2013 remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

This time the plaintiffs again failed to prove allegations that Saudi charity organizations funded al-Qaeda from within the United States or that the defendants knowingly assisted the attackers while acting as official agents of the Saudi government in the United States, the Sept. 29 opinion said.

The 9/11 victims did not show that Saudi Arabia controlled the daily operations of charities that allegedly funnel money to al-Qaeda, and they failed to demonstrate that the charities functioned as alter egos of the Saudi government, the 21-page opinion said.

Daniels also dismissed the victims' request to admit new evidence they argued was unavailable to them when they filed the initial complaint in 2004. The evidence included U.S. State Department diplomatic cables, congressional testimony, evidence from military tribunals, internal documents of Saudi charity organizations and testimony from al-Qaeda, among others.

The victims focused on four alleged agents of Saudi Arabia - one of them Abdul Rahman Hussayen, who they claimed gave material support to several of the 9/11 hijackers.

"Plaintiffs allege no facts and provide no evidence to support that Hussayen was a Saudi official acting in any official capacity at the relevant time," Daniels wrote.

According to the victims, Hussayen declared himself a Saudi government official and moved into the same hotel as three of the hijackers just days before the attacks - but they did not adequately allege that he provided logistical or financial support to them, Daniels said.

"Even if this court were to assume that Hussayen was a Saudi government official, there is no allegation-let alone evidence-that he assisted the hijackers within the scope of his employment or otherwise," Daniels wrote.

The judge found a similar lack of evidence that the other three alleged agents - Osama Basnan, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al Thumairy - acted on behalf of Saudi Arabia within the United States.

"The broad allegations turn in large part on speculative opinions," Daniels wrote.

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