By Robert Gearty & Joseph Straw New York Daily News
Manhattan Federal Magistrate Judge Frank Maas orders payments to 110 survivors and estates of 47 victims, including the pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, which hit south tower of World Trade Center
A judge Monday awarded 9/11 relatives $6 billion in their suit targeting Al Qaeda and silent partner Iran for complicity in the heinous plot that killed nearly 3,000 people.Manhattan Federal Magistrate Judge Frank Maas’ ruling is the first to hit those responsible for the attacks with civil penalties, which would be due to 110 survivors and to the estates of 47 victims that are parties to the suit.Plaintiff Ellen Saracini’s husband, Victor Saracini, was captain of United Airlines Flight 175, which struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.
“It’s hard being happy, but I am happy about it,” said Saracini, of Yardley, Pa. “But it opens up old wounds. We were never in it for a lawsuit. I wanted to know what happened to my husband.”
Last year, Federal Judge George Daniels ruled that 9/11 was not just the work of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban regime that gave them safe haven.
Daniels found that Iran, its Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei and the regime’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah aided the attacks.
Iran concealed hijackers’ travel through the country and could have prevented them from entering the U.S., while an Iranian government memo suggested Khamenei knew of the plot in May 2001.
Investigators also believe that Iran helped Al Qaeda members escape Afghanistan after 9/11 and provided some safe haven. The 9/11 Commission cited the findings and said they merited further investigation.
Whether the plaintiffs will see a penny is unclear. Bin Laden died cut off from his family’s wealth, while Al Qaeda is on its last legs and the Taliban remains at war with the U.S.
That leaves the families’ legal team to seek seizure of Iranian state assets overseas, which they say fund terror worldwide.
International seizures are common in the business world, said plaintiffs’ lawyer Tom Mellon.
“But in the terror world, this is uncharted territory,” Mellon said.
Saracini doesn’t care.
“I never was in this for the money. I wanted accountability,” she said. “The money will never bring back my husband, so I don’t care about it.”