By Daniel Beekman New York Daily News
Twelve years after September 11, and eight years after a federal judge ruled Saudi Arabia has immunity from prosecution, families of 9/11 victims will get their day in court after all.
The relatives can revive their claims against the kingdom and a charity affiliated with the Saudi government, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled Thursday.
“I’m ecstatic, because we have a lot of information and evidence,” William Doyle, whose 25-year-old son, Joseph, was killed in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, told the Daily News.
The ruling overturned a 2005 Manhattan Federal Court judge’s decision that Saudi Arabia was immune from prosecution in the September 11, 2001, attacks. The lawsuit was brought by 9/11 families and insurers that covered losses suffered by building and business owners. The appellate panel pointed to a 2011 decision allowing similar claims against Afghanistan to move forward.
Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudi nationals who flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, when passengers revolted, a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 innocent people died in the attacks.
The families said Saudi Arabia and the government-affiliated charity knowingly provided Al Qaeda with funds and other support that helped the terrorist group carry out the attacks.
“These people are getting off scot-free. They didn’t even get a slap on the wrist, and to this day we still have terrorism running rampant. We have to hold accountable the people who finance terrorism,” the 66-year-old Doyle, a retired Staten Island stock trader now living in Sumter County, Fla., told The News.
In the appellate ruling, Judge Chester Straub wrote “the interests of justice” meant the claims should be allowed to move ahead.
Manhattan Federal Court Judge George Daniels will handle the case.
Doyle compared the role of Saudi Arabia to that of a mob boss hiring a hit man.
“Not only does the person who pulls the trigger go to jail, so does the person who financed him,” Doyle said. “What’s different about this situation?”
Michael Kellogg, a lawyer for Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom will seek further review of “this erroneous decision.”
The 2005 decision said Saudi Arabia was immune under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act from the claims, which were first filed in 2002.
“I think we’re finally seeing that light at the end of the tunnel,” Doyle said Thursday. “It’s been 12 years that I’ve been fighting this battle. I will not give up this fight.”
Stephen Cozen, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said they are seeking damages that could reach tens of billions of dollars.
“This opinion is eminently correct and will give 9/11 victims their day in court,” Cozen said. “The parties will start over, and we are very, very satisfied that we will meet any defenses, both legal and factual, that are raised.”
With News Wire Services