Saudis Plan to Sue U.S. Over Sept. 11: Lawyer

August 22, 2002 - 0:0
DUBAI -- A group of Saudis plan to sue the U.S. government and media organizations for the alleged psychological and financial damage they suffered in the aftermath of September 11, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

"Tens of Saudi nationals seriously plan to file lawsuits against U.S. government, civil and media entities, the majority of whom are students who had been attending American universities and were forced to leave," Saudi Lawyer Katib al-Shamri said.

He said the plan had gathered pace after families of 900 people killed in the hijacked airliner attacks filed a lawsuit last week in Washington against Saudi nationals and institutions alleging they had funded terrorism and seeking damages of over $100 trillion.

The civil suit accuses three senior Saudi princes, several Saudi and other foreign banks and Sudan's government of funding Osama bin Laden, the key U.S. suspect in the attacks.

The Saudi banks have denied any role in funding terrorism and say the case is an attempt to extort Saudi wealth and pressure Saudi Arabia to conform with U.S. policies on Iraq and the Middle East.

"We had been waiting to raise funds to hire U.S. lawyers and also for things to quiet down in the United States, but it seems the campaign against Saudi Arabia is continuing with that bogus and politicized U.S. lawsuit," Shamri told Reuters by telephone.

"Our case will seek reasonable compensation," he said. "It is the right time to proceed".

Shamri said the potential plaintiffs included Saudis whose names had initially been listed among the hijackers of the planes that crashed into U.S. landmarks.

Others want to sue U.S. law enforcement officers for harrassing them in the hunt for the perpetrators.

Hundreds of Saudis have been questioned by U.S. authorities investigating the attacks.

Washington has named 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers.

Shamri, a member of an international legal committee set up to defend detainees at a U.S. base in Cuba, also called on the United States to allow families of more than 100 Saudi nationals held there to visit their sons.

The prisoners were captured in the U.S.-led war against Al- Qaeda, blamed for the September 11 attacks, and against the taliban government that sheltered them in Afghanistan.

"Most of the Saudi detainees are innocent and were carrying out charity and humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Others are very young and were fooled," Shamri said. He called on U.S. authorities to charge the detainees or release them.