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Court turns up heat on Saudis in 9/11 victims’ case

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A federal court overturned a 2005 decision that Saudi Arabia was immune from civil lawsuits arising from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, allowing the 9/11 families and insurance companies to resume their lawsuit against the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, various Saudi royals, and the Saudi High Commission, a government-established "charity," were dismissed as defendants in 2005 by U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey, who said the government's support for Islamist "charities" that supported al-Qaeda did not make it responsible for 9/11.

But a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second District of New York ruled Thursday that it had “treated cases arising from the same incident differently.” The appeals panel noted it had allowed a similar 2011 case against Afghanistan to go forward.

“Inconsistent results for victims of the same incident pose a unique problem of unfairness,” Justice Chester Straub wrote.

Thousands of people injured in the attacks, the families of those killed and insurance agencies sued Saudi Arabia for monetary damages in 2002, the New York Post reported.

They claimed the Saudi nationals who crashed planes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., had been supported by the kingdom.

They said Saudi money funneled through Islamic charities funded terrorism.

The suit was filed against kingdom officials, including Princes Sultan, Turki and Mohammed.

The Obama administration had intervened in the case to support the Kingdom, filing a brief in 2009 arguing for sovereign immunity for the Kingdom.

The New York Daily News reported that a spokesman for the 9/11 families said Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission knowingly provided al-Qaeda with funds and other support, that helped the terrorist group carry out the 9/11 attacks.

"I'm ecstatic, because we have a lot of information and evidence," said William Doyle, whose son was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. "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," Doyle added.

Former U.S. Sens. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who co-chaired the two major official investigations of the 9/11 attacks, submitted affidavits in the case in 2012, stating that a Saudi government agent, along with other Saudi officials, played a key role during the lead-up to the attacks.

"I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia," Graham said in his affidavit, citing, among other things, the San Diego case of Saudi government Omar al Bayoumi, who provided direct assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

The Second Circuit ruling comes just as there is heightened attention in Congress on the efforts to force the release of the censored 28 pages from Graham's Congressional Joint Inquiry, which pages reportedly deal with Saudi financing and support for the 9/11 hijackers.

Michael Kellogg, the attorney representing Saudi Arabia, told the Post that the country “will seek further review of this erroneous decision.”

He predicted the case would be thrown out again “for other reasons.”

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