A US judge has dismissed Saudi Arabia's bid to dismiss lawsuits alleging that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) helped finance Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda leading up to the September, 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
"Plaintiffs allege here that Defendant Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bears responsibility for the 9/11 Attacks because its agent and employees directly and knowingly assisted the hijackers and plotters who carried out the attacks," US District Judge George Daniels wrote in a March 28 court memorandum decision.
The allegations "narrowly articulate a reasonable basis for this court to assume jurisdiction under JASTA over Plaintiffs' claims against Saudi Arabia," the judge wrote, referring to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
The cases will now move to "limited jurisdictional discovery." Discovery in the legal context means that Saudi Arabia is obliged to disclose relevant information about the case, as requested by the plaintiffs. In other words, it means the case will go forward in examining whether or not Saudi Arabia has immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).
The lawsuits are a sensitive topic in US-Saudi Arabia relations. For more than a decade, Riyadh has flown under the cover of immunity from September 11 lawsuits in the US.
Then, in September 2016, then-President Barack Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Congress quickly voted on the bill again and accrued the necessary votes to override the president's veto. The law effectively allows the families of 9/11 victims, survivors and insurance firms to move forward with charges that KSA provided financial support to charities that supported Al-Qaeda.
"If the Saudi government had no involvement in 9/11, it has nothing to fear. But if it was culpable, it should be held accountable. That is the basic principle of [JASTA]," Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said when the bill became law.