9/11 Widow First to Sue Saudis under New Law

11 September

A woman widowed when her husband was killed at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, sued Saudi Arabia just two days after the US Congress enacted legislation allowing Americans to sue foreign governments accused of playing a role in terrorist attacks on US soil.

According to a report by Associated Press, as covered by Al Alam, Stephanie Ross DeSimone alleged that the Saudi kingdom provided material support to al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, in a complaint filed Friday at a US court in Washington. Her suit is also filed on behalf of the couple’s daughter. DeSimone was pregnant when Navy Cmdr. Patrick Dunn was killed.

Fifteen of the 19 men who hijacked airliners used in the attacks were Saudis. One jet struck the Pentagon, seat of the US military, and two others destroyed the World Trade Centre’s twin towers in New York, while a fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field as its passengers fought back against the hijackers.

A US commission that investigated the 2001 attacks said in a 2004 report that it “found no evidence that the Saudi government, as an institution, or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al-Qaeda.” Long-classified portions of a congressional inquiry released in July 2016 found the hijackers may have had help from some Saudi officials.

The kingdom has denied culpability. An official at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Thursday that the US Congress must correct the 9/11 bill to avoid “serious unintended consequences,” adding the law is of “great concern” to the Kingdom.

Opponents of the measure, including President Barack Obama, whose veto of the measure was overridden by the Congress, argue that opening the Saudis to liability could prompt that nation and others to take similar steps against the US by targeting American troops with lawsuits.

DeSimone, who is suing for wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is DeSimone v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 16-cv-1944, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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