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Iran ordered to pay billions to families of 9/11 victims

9/11 Memorial (Dave Z/Flickr)
May 04, 2018

A federal judge has ordered Iran to pay out billions of dollars in damages to the families and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the deadliest terror attack in world history.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels ordered the Islamic Republic and various other entities to pay $12.5 million per spouse, $8.5 million per parent or child, and $4.25 million per sibling to the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, it was reported this week.

The ruling faults Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the deaths of more than 1,000 people whose families were part of the lawsuit. There were 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks, not including the 19 terrorists who carried out the attacks; more than 6,000 others were wounded.

The lawsuit was originally filed back in 2004, but was only recently allowed to proceed following a 2016 bill in Congress.

The ruling is largely symbolic and will likely not result in any payouts whatsoever from Iran. The Islamic Republic has never responded to the lawsuit, and there is likely no feasible way to force the country to pay.

In 2016, Congress passed a measure permitting the families of the victims of 9/11 to sue state actors for the terror attacks. Then-President Barrack Obama initially vetoed the law, titled the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Obama argued that it could set a precedent that would open up the U.S. to similar lawsuits, but Congress ultimately overrode the President’s veto.

The court ruling is part of a larger effort that aims to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Judge Daniels struck down a Saudi bid back in March to drop several lawsuits by families looking for compensation over Riyadh’s alleged role in the attacks. The lawsuits are against Saudi banks and Saudi a construction company that had ties to Osama bin Laden. Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers were also Saudi.

That lawsuit, which also seeks billions in financial compensation, claims that Saudi Arabia knowingly assisted the hijackers who carried out the terrorist attack. It also alleges that Saudi Arabia played a pivotal role in al Qaeda’s influential rise into a terrorist organization because of the entities that financed the group. However, the 9/11 Commission Report concluded in July 2004 that the Saudi Arabian government played no role in the attacks.

While no lawsuit against state actors has produced any financial compensation for victims’ families thus far, various U.S. funds have paid out billions over the last decade. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, created by an Act of Congress, awarded $7 billion to 97 percent of the families impacted by the terrorist attacks.