NEW YORK (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — Attorneys for Saudi Arabia say a judge should reject claims by families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks that new evidence – including an interview with the man who became known as the “20th hijacker” – shows agents of the kingdom “directly and knowingly” helped the hijackers.
In papers filed in Manhattan federal court late Friday, the lawyers said there is no evidence Saudi Arabia supported or caused the attacks.
They urged a judge to dismiss the claims against Saudi Arabia, saying the lawyers “have had enough chances to make their case.”
Saudi Arabia was among the countries, companies and organizations sued in 2002 and afterward by families who claimed they aided al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other terrorist groups. The lawsuits sought billions of dollars in damages.
Lawyers for Saudi Arabia also urged the judge considering the merits of the civil litigation to disregard claims by al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, who is serving a life prison sentence after pleading guilty in April 2005 to conspiring with the hijackers to kill Americans.
They called his comments to plaintiffs’ lawyers last year “colorful but immaterial hearsay statements” from a convicted, mentally ill terrorist. Before jurors spared Moussaoui’s life, a psychologist testified for the defense at death penalty proceedings that he had paranoid schizophrenia.
Moussaoui says it was a lie that Saudi Arabia cut ties with al Qaeda and bin Laden in 1994.
Lawyers for 9/11 families cited Moussaoui’s claims in saying they’ve unearthed “compelling” evidence that the Saudi government assisted the hijackers.
In papers filed Friday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said the efforts by Saudi Arabia to be dismissed from the litigation “rest on grave distortions of the record, implausible interpretations of the allegations, facts and evidence, and a refusal to afford plaintiffs the obvious inferences to which they are entitled.”
Saudi Arabia was dismissed as a defendant in the case once before by a judge who said it was protected by sovereign immunity, but a federal appeals court in December 2013 reinstated it, saying a legal exception existed and the circumstances were extraordinary.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they have developed substantial new evidence against Saudi Arabia since the Sept. 11 Commission said in a report a decade ago that it found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials individually funded al-Qaida.
Lawyers for Saudi Arabia say the families are relying on the submission of “thousands of pages of inadmissible and irrelevant materials.”
They wrote: “If they had a single piece of evidence that would stand up in court, they would highlight it in their papers. Instead, they focus heavily on witnesses manifestly lacking personal knowledge, and on newspaper articles, blog posts, and similar multiple hearsay. They thus reveal that they have nothing better.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers and some family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks pushed for a joint congressional report issued in the aftermath of the attacks to be declassified.
Congressmen Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) spoke to CBSN about their mission to declassify the 28-page report which raises questions about the relationship Saudi Arabia may have had with the 9/11 hijackers. The pages are part of the larger 9/11 report released a decade ago.
“There is no security reason in declassifying this information,” said Rep. Jones. “The 9/11 families and the American people have a right to see the 28-pages and then make the decision for themselves.”
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