[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit [opinion, PDF] brought by survivors of the 9/11 attacks against the nation of Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archives] and four of its princes, ruling that the defendants were protected from prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text]. The plaintiffs accused the princes of donating money to anti-American charities, which then funneled the funds to al-Qaeda:
The plaintiffs ask the Court to draw a reasonable inference that because of sharia, there exists an active, not passive, relationship among an Islamic bank, its owners, and its large depositors. In other words, the owners of [Swiss bank] DMI and its subsidiaries are close business partners with bank customers in a partnership or collaboration to manage and invest customers capital in a mutually beneficial way. Osama bin Laden, his bodyguard, and other al Qaeda operatives had deposits with DMI and its subsidiaries. (Also, bin Laden himself invested $50 million in one of DMIs subsidiaries.) Therefore, argue the plaintiffs, the September 11 attacks were a direct result of the material support that Prince Mohamed . . . provided al Qaeda. Mohamed disputes this characterization of sharia banking; but even assuming its accuracy, it does not reflect that Mohamed engaged in intentional conduct expressly aimed at the United States.The court held that for the lawsuit to proceed it was not enough to show that the princes knew that the money would be used for al-Qaeda attacks. Instead, plaintiffs would have to show that the princes intended for the money to be used for that purpose. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.
This is not the first time that US courts have rejected 9/11 litigation against Saudi Arabia. In 2005, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Richard Casey dismissed [PDF text; JURIST report] Saudi Arabia, its defense minister and its ambassador to the UK as defendants in litigation stemming from the terrorist attacks, ruling that all had sovereign immunity [LII backgrounder]. The plaintiffs in that case were suing over 200 defendants who allegedly helped fund and support Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Casey allowed a claim to proceed against the Saudi Binladen Group [corporate website], the successor to a construction company founded by bin Laden's father, because additional discovery is necessary to determine whether the company "purposefully directed its activities at the United States."