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Families of the victims have been fighting to bring a case against Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in funding and supporting Al-Qaeda. In September 2016, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) came into effect, allowing US citizens to sue foreign countries for terrorism by providing legal exemption to sovereign immunity.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks were Saudis, while two of them were from the UAE.
The Middle East Eye reports that UAE’s alleged support for Al-Qaeda has been raised in legal circles in light of the recent diplomatic spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, causing families of the victims to discuss taking legal action against the UAE before the statute of limitations expires in January 2019.
“The UAE needs some attention and our lawyers need to start delving into it in a more concerted way,” said Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband was killed on 9/11. “I’m simply going to say this – to me, their hands don’t seem clean and I think their role in the 9/11 attacks and their connection to the hijackers bears further investigation.”
Relatives and lawyers said the 9/11 Commission findings justify adding the UAE as a defendant in cases brought against Saudi Arabia.
The UAE is mentioned over 70 times in the 9/11 Commission Report and related documents, including one on terrorist financing. The report found most of the attackers travelled through Dubai on their way to the US, and money used to finance the attacks “flowed through the UAE,” and that the hijackers received money from facilitators in the UAE.
The 9/11 report recalls the UAE “becoming both a valued counterterrorism ally” and “a persistent counterterrorism problem” in 1999, and references a missed chance to kill Osama Bin Laden in February as visitors from the UAE were using the same camp, and there were fears a strike “would kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials.”
The UAE also took part in “extensive lobbying against Jasta alongside Saudi Arabia,” a legal source told Middle East Eye.
The UAE warned it could stop intelligence cooperation with the US in an effort to stop JASTA, the Telegraph reported in June.
While relatives believe UAE’s actions suggest complicity, it’s possible this could be as a result of the UAE’s relationship with the Saudis.
Not long after JASTA was passed, a suit was filed against UAE’s Dubai Islamic Bank for “knowingly and purposefully provided financial services and other forms of material support to al Qaeda … including the transfer of financial resources to al Qaeda operatives who participated in the planning and execution of the September 11th attacks.” The claim was withdrawn in May, according to the Telegraph.
Qatar’s ambassador to the US, Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani, accused UAE of supporting 9/11 last month.
“Emiratis, not Qataris, were among the hijackers who flew planes into the Twin Towers,’’ he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“Most active families are aware of the role played by the UAE in 9/11,” Jim Kreindler, who represents 850 relatives in a case against the Saudi government, said. “If we wanted to paint with the broadest brush possible we could identify other entities that provided some support to the attackers, but to get this case to the finish line it is important to focus on the entity most involved and most critical in supporting al-Qaeda.”
While Saudi is “by far the most culpable defendant,” Kreindler said there “may be reasons” to add other defendants.