Saudi Charity Boss Immune in 9/11 Suits

     (CN) – The former head of two Saudi charities is immune from civil claims related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
     Abdul Rahman Al-Swailem is the former president of two charities, the Saudi Joint Relief Committee and the Saudi Red Crescent Society. Both are agencies of the Saudi government and are immune from U.S. lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, according to the ruling.
     The “vast multi-district” lawsuit against hundreds of defendants who allegedly supported the 9/11 terrorist attacks accused Al-Swailem of using his former position to give resources and support to al-Qaida, according to court records. He is specifically accused of appointing a known al-Qaida figure as a SJRC director.
     A federal judge with the Southern District of New York dismissed claims against Al-Swailem and the charities in 2010, but the Second Circuit vacated the decision in 2013. The appeals court remanded the case for jurisdictional discovery, but upheld the dismissal of the two charities under the FSIA.
     Al-Swailem moved for his dismissal again in 2013. U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted his motion Friday, ruling that he is entitled to immunity for his acts as president of the charities.
     Daniels found that State Department policy supports immunity for Al-Swailem because a foreign nation requested it and he was acting on behalf of that country’s government.
     “Here, the Saudi government, through its ambassador, has requested that this court grant common law sovereign immunity to Al-Swailem, and has declared that all alleged actions were taken by Al-Swailem in his official capacity as head of the SRC and the SJRC,” Daniels wrote. “The conclusory allegations in the complaint do not strip Al-Swailem of conduct-based immunity for actions taken in his official capacity. The only non-conclusory allegation, regarding Al-Swailem’s hiring decision, is an action taken in his official capacity – not his personal – capacity. Thus, Al-Swailem is entitled to common law, conduct-based sovereign immunity.”
     The judge rejected the argument that Al-Swailem should not be entitled to immunity because his actions as head of the charities violated international law.
     “The Second Circuit does not recognize such a limitation to a foreign official’s right to immunity from suit in U.S. courts where, as here, that official acted in his official capacity,” Daniels wrote.

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