US & Canada

US judge clears Saudi Arabia in 9/11 lawsuit

Roses with the new World Trade Center building Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks

A US judge has dismissed Saudi Arabia as a defendant in lawsuits brought by families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The judge said there was insufficient evidence linking the gulf country to the 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Among the evidence dismissed were claims by one man in custody that a Saudi prince helped finance the plot.

Of the 19 men behind the attacks, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Judge George Daniels wrote that lawyers did not show sufficient evidence to overcome Saudi Arabia's sovereign immunity.

He also cleared the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, saying that the charity is covered as well by Saudi Arabia's sovereign immunity.

Recently, an inmate in US custody, Zacarias Moussaoui, claimed that a Saudi prince had helped finance the attack that flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.

A fourth plane crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania.

Moussaoui was arrested weeks before the 9/11 attacks on immigrations charges and was in prison at the time of the attacks. He had taken flying lessons in Minnesota and had been wired money by an al-Qaeda affiliate.

In court at his sentencing, Moussaoui said he had been part of the plot to fly a Boeing 747 into the White House.

Saudi Arabia had rejected the accusation from a "deranged criminal" with no credibility.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Zacarias Moussaoui in serving a life in a US prison called Supermax

This is the second time that Saudi Arabia has been dismissed from the cases. It was reinstated as a defendant in 2013 after a lower court tossed it on sovereignty grounds.

The lawsuits came in the aftermath of the attacks and were brought against companies, countries and organisations that were accused of aiding al-Qaeda and other terror groups. They sought billions in damages.

Lawyers in the cases frequently referenced the September 11 Commission's report, which they said supported their argument that Saudi Arabia had been the primary funding source for al-Qaeda.

Lawyers for Saudi Arabia argued that the report did not implicate the Saudi government or individual Saudi officials.