A New York City judge has ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to the estates and families of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels issued a default judgment on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, ordering Iran to pay $7.5 billion to the estates and families of the people killed in the tragic 9/11 incident. The total of $7.5 billion includes $2 million to the estates of each of the victims for the pain and suffering endured by their relatives and $6.88 million in punitive damages, according to Bloomberg.
Judge Daniels also ordered Iran to pay $3 billion to insurers, including Chubb Ltd., for losses incurred due to the payment of claims, such as property damages and business interruption, following the attacks.
Daniels issued the default judgment after Iran failed to respond to the court summons to defend itself against allegations that the country was liable for damages because it helped the 9/11 terrorists.
Judge Daniels’ latest judgment comes after he cleared Saudi Arabia of liability to pay billions in damages to the families of the 9/11 victims last year. After attorneys representing Saudi Arabia argued in court that there was no evidence linking Riyadh to the attacks, Daniels ruled that Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity and agreed that there was no evidence that Saudi Arabia provided “material support” to the al-Qaeda terrorists.
Meanwhile, a senior aide to Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Hossein Sheikholeslam, has commented on the latest ruling.
Describing the decision as “absurd and ridiculous,” he told Sputnik News, “I never heard about this ruling and I’m very much surprised because the judge had no reason whatsoever to issue such a ruling.”
“Iran never took part in any court hearings related to the events of September 11, 2001,” he continued. “Even if such an absurd and ridiculous decision has been made, the charges simply hold no water because Iran has never been mentioned at any stage of the investigation and the trials that followed.”
He also pointed out that because the attackers were Saudi citizens and people who had lived or studied in Saudi Arabia, the main suspect in investigations was always Saudi Arabia, not Iran.
“All this looks like another evil joke by the Americans,” Sheikholeslam concluded.
But legal experts have explained that the ruling is an example of what is termed a default ruling. A judge may issue a default ruling when one of the parties in a case refuses to respond to a court summons.
In this case, the judge issued a default ruling because Iran ignored the summons to defend itself against claims that it aided the 9/11 attackers.
But Iran ignored court summons because the lawsuit was entirely baseless, according to Sheikholeslam. He pointed out that none of the attackers were Iranians and that there was no reasonable evidence that Iran was involved in the attacks.
According to reports, 15 of the 19 terrorists who staged the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens: two were citizens of the United Arab Emirates, one was from Egypt, and the last from Lebanon.
However, some U.S. investigators allege that Tehran may have been involved in the attacks despite President George W. Bush’s assertion that there was “no direct connection between Iran and 9/11.”
Court documents filed by plaintiffs in the case argued that Iran was liable because Iran-backed Hezbollah “provided material support” to al-Qaeda.
According to some investigators, Hezbollah, a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, gave training and advice to al-Qaeda operatives. But it was not clear that the al-Qaeda operatives Hezbollah trained were the same as the operatives who carried out the 9/11 attacks.
The 9/11 Commission Report, issued on July 22, 2004, also said some of the 9/11 attackers who traveled through Iran did not have their passports stamped but admitted there was no evidence that Iran was involved in plans and preparations to stage the attack.
Many analysts are skeptical of claims that Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks because Iranians are mostly Shia Muslims, while al-Qaeda militants are Sunni. Sunni and Shia Muslims have a long history of hostile relations due to religious doctrinal differences.
Sunni groups, such as ISIS, kill Shia Muslims as heretics.
In the light of hostile relations between Shia and Sunni Muslims, Iran Press Editor-in-Chief Emad Abshenas described Judge Daniel’s ruling as the “most stupid and ludicrous in the history of U.S. courts,” according to Sputnik News.
“The people who committed those terrorist attacks were neither friends nor allies of Iran,” he told Sputnik News. “They were our sworn enemies, members of Al-Qaeda, which considers Iran as their enemy.”
“Fifteen out of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens, which happens to be America’s best friend,” he continued. “The remaining four terrorists lived in Saudi Arabia and enjoyed Saudi support. Therefore the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Iran.”
Bloomberg notes that it is unclear how the judge’s ruling will be enforced since it is expected that Iran will not cooperate. But legal experts have suggested that the plaintiffs could claim the damages awarded by taking advantage of a U.S. law that grants parties in relevant lawsuits access to terrorists’ assets frozen by the government.
[Photo by Richard Drew/AP Images]