NEW YORK – The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, three Saudi princes and several Saudi financial institutions were dismissed Tuesday as defendants in six civil lawsuits accusing them of providing support to Al Qaeda (search) before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Judge Richard Casey said the president, not the courts, has the authority to label a foreign nation a terrorist, though he said he understood the "desire to find a legal remedy for the horrible wrongs committed on Sept. 11, 2001."
The lawsuits alleged more than 200 defendants provided material support to Usama bin Laden (search) and Al Qaeda. Defendants included Al Qaeda, its members and associates, charities, banks, front organizations, terrorist organizations and financiers who allegedly supported Al Qaeda.
The judge said the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient facts to overcome the kingdom of Saudi Arabia's immunity. He said Saudi Arabia (search) maintains it has worked with the United States to share information in the fight against terrorism.
He also noted the State Department has not designated the kingdom a state sponsor of terrorism, and that the Sept. 11 commission found no evidence Saudi Arabia — the birthplace of bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers — funded or supported the Sept. 11 terrorists.
The judge also dismissed as defendants Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan, Saudi ambassador to London Prince Turki and Prince Mohamed Al-Faisal Al-Saud, among others.
"The court has reviewed the complaints in their entirety and finds no allegations from which it can infer that the princes knew the charities to which they donated were fronts for Al Qaeda," Casey said. "Here, there are no such factual bases presented, there are only conclusions."
The judge permitted lawsuits to proceed against the Saudi Binladen Group (search), the successor to a construction company founded by bin Laden's father, which is now one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the Arab world.
He said additional legal discovery would be necessary to decide whether the Saudi Binladen Group "purposefully directed its activities at the United States."
Among financial institutions dismissed as defendants were Al Rajhi Bank, which has nearly 400 branch offices throughout Saudi Arabia; Saudi American Bank, the second largest bank in Saudi Arabia; and Arab Bank, which has headquarters in Egypt with branch offices throughout the world.
Casey said he found no basis for a bank's liability for injuries resulting from attacks funded by money passing through it on routine banking business.
The judge's documents did not identify the plaintiffs' lawyers.