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After threatening Saudi Arabia, US Court makes fresh bid to compensate 9/11 victims through Iran

Despite the fact that 9/11 Commission found no direct evidence of Iran’s alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks, a judgement has been ruled ordering Iran to make payments to the families of victims of 9/11 tragedy. Saudi Arabia was also threatened to be sued over the incident, however the monarchy warned to pull $750B from U.S. economy if the lawsuit was taken forward.

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News Analysis

In a surprising turn of events, a judge in New York has ordered the Muslim majority state, Iran, to pay a staggering $6bn to the relatives of victims of 9/11 attacks. The judge, George B. Daniels, listed the amount to be paid separately to the members family as he issued the default judgment – meaning the defendant does not contest the case.

Iran is ordered to pay “$12,500,000 per spouse, $8,500,000 per parent, $8,500,000 per child, and $4,250,000 per sibling” to the families and estates of the deceased, court filings state. Although the lawsuit was filed in 2004, even then it took 12 years for Congress to pass Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) which exposed sovereign states accused of terrorism to liability, paving way for the judge to continue with his proceedings.

This is not the first judgment which pertains to monetary compensation from Tehran as the same judge issued other default judgments in 2011 and 2016 with the same orders that the Islamic Republic should pay victims and insurers for damages and deaths in the hijacker attacks that had sent shockwaves across the Western Hemisphere and led to engagement of Washington in multiple wars stretching from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Trump had decertified the deal in 2016, however, he has set a deadline of May 12th to take a final decision in this regard, with French, British and German leaders calling upon Trump to stay in the agreement.

In the fresh directives, a 4.96 percent annual interest rate has also been applied to the amount, starting from September 11, 2001 to the date of the judgment which finds the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran as responsible for the deaths due to World Trade Centre collapse.

Read more: War between Saudi Arabia and Iran may happen in just 10-15…

The fresh judgment has not drawn a response from Tehran, however, it is expected that the country would brush aside the allegations, repeating what it said in 2017. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister had clarified that Iran cannot ignore the role played by US allies in the attacks.

Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission tasked to probe the twin tower catastrophe in detail, found no evidence of direct Iranian support in the carnage that shaped a new world order in terms of fresh alliances. It just revealed that certain 9/11 hijackers traveled through Iran on their way to Afghanistan but even their passports were not stamped.

Although the lawsuit was filed in 2004, even then it took 12 years for Congress to pass Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) which exposed sovereign states accused of terrorism to liability, paving way for the judge to continue with his proceedings.

The judgment is surprising in a sense that Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, however, they were neither managed or directed by Saudi Arabia, nor the attack was orchestrated by Saudi royals. However, the victims of 9/11 attacks kept pressing for the lawsuit to make the Royal Kingdom accountable, despite that top US official were also convinced that Saudi Arabia had no hand in the massacre.

Read more: Saudi Arabia must face lawsuits over 9/11: US Judge

As the hijackers who dashed into the skyscrapers were non-state actors, the Kingdom had warned United States against the passing of Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) citing that the move can backfire, with US troops being held accountable. Saudi Arabia had also threatened to pull $750B from U.S. economy, provided it issued for the attacks, it was not responsible for, however, the bill was ratified.

Even in March 2017, the oil-rich kingdom urged Donald Trump to withdraw JASTA, after the first case was filed against the state in New York. JASTA had been a bone of contention between Riyadh and Washington with former President Barack Obama attempting to veto the bill but failing as a result of Congress.

The judgment is surprising in a sense that Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, however, they were neither managed or directed by Saudi Arabia, nor the attack was orchestrated by Saudi royals.

Donald Trump, before he became the 45th  president of United States, chided Obama for his attempts, however, he is having cordial ties with the Mohammed bin Salman-led Saudi Arabia for now. Trump toured Saudi Arabia last year but according to reports there was no discussion over the JASTA controversy, though Trump had welcomed the filing of a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia.

Read more: Saudi Arabia expands entertainment industry

The fresh judgment against Iran comes on the heels of probable pull out of US President Donald Trump from the Iran Nuclear Deal brokered in the Obama era, in 2015. Trump had decertified the deal in 2016, however, he has set a deadline of May 12th to take a final decision in this regard, with French, British and German leaders calling upon Trump to stay in the agreement.

Though the US court order is not binding on Iran, as endorsed by the non-compliance of earlier orders, even then it could be taken as a signal of fresh tension between the two states.


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