Picture of the World Trade Center on 9/11 shortly after the second tower had collapsed.
Picture of the World Trade Center on 9/11 shortly after the second tower had collapsed.

Families of 9/11 victims can't sue Saudi Arabia, says court

A US judge has said 9/11 victims' families cannot proceed with claims against Saudi Arabia, who they accuse of materially supporting al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia enjoys sovereign immunity, protecting the country from damage claims from the families of almost 3,000 people killed when two planes crashed into New York's Twin Towers in 2001.

US district judge George Daniels said the despite efforts from these families to provide additional evidence against the country, their claims did not "strip defendants of sovereign immunity."

9/11 attackers countries of origin

15: Saudi Arabia
2: United Arab Emirates
1: Egypt
​1: Lebanon

"The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants," Daniels wrote on Tuesday.

Families, as well as insurers that covered losses from the buildings and local businesses, had secured testimony from Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaeda operative imprisoned for his actions.

But this effort proved fruitless as Judge Daniels refused to consider the case in Manhattan.

Lawyers from both parties declined to on comment on the situation.

9/11 was carried out by 19 men, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia, and killed 2,996 people. The Pentagon and the two World Trade Centre towers were targeted in an attack that horrified the world.

In the years following the tragedy, civil action against Saudi Arabia has proceeded in fits and starts.

Trial judges - including Judge Daniels - had ruled the country was entitled to immunity twice before under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In 2013, claimants appeared to make headway when the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York revived the lawsuit following a decision in 2011 that allowed a similar suit against Afghanistan.