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US judge rejects Saudi Arabia’s bid to drop 9/11 lawsuits

WASHINGTON: A US federal judge has rejected Saudi Arabia’s bid to drop lawsuits alleging it helped orchestrate the September 11, 2001 attacks.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said the plaintiffs’ allegations “narrowly articulate a reasonable basis” for him to assert jurisdiction over Saudi Arabia under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a 2016 federal law.

The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the attacks in which hijacked airplanes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died.

US judge Saudi Arabia9/11 lawsuits

At a Saudi stock market event in New York, asked whether the court decision would have a negative impact on Saudi investment in the United States, Capital Market Authority Chairman Mohammed A. ElKuwaiz declined to comment, saying he had not seen the news.

Saudi Arabia had long had broad immunity from Sept. 11 lawsuits in the United States.

That changed in September 2016, when the U.S. Congress overrode President Barack Obama’s veto of JASTA, allowing such cases to proceed.

Obama had warned that the law could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits in other countries.

Saudi Arabia had argued that the plaintiffs could not show that any Saudi official, employee or agent planned or carried out the attacks.

James Kreindler, a lawyer for many of the plaintiffs, said he was “delighted” the case can proceed.

“We have been pressing to proceed with the case and conduct discovery from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so that the full story can come to light, and expose the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks,” he said in a phone interview.

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