Saudi Charity Head Accused of Funding Al-Qaeda Prior to 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Granted Immunity because Saudi Royal Family Asked for It

Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Judge George Daniels

A Saudi official caught up in an ongoing lawsuit over the September 11 attacks has once again been removed as a defendant by a U.S. federal judge after the Saudi government requested his immunity.


Abdul Rahman Al-Swailem, former president of two charities, the Saudi Joint Relief Committee (SJRC) and the Saudi Red Crescent Society, was accused in a 9/11 lawsuit of supporting Al-Qaeda before the terrorist attacks. He was also accused of appointing an Al-Qaeda figure as a SJRC director. The legal action against Al-Swailem is part of what is described as a “vast multi-district” lawsuit against hundreds of defendants who are claimed to have provided support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to Courthouse News Service.


Al-Swailem got himself removed from the civil case in 2010 when a federal judge tossed the complaint out altogether. But on appeal the litigation was restored by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which put Al-Swailem back as a defendant. So he again asked to be removed, as did the Saudi Royal Family, which rules Saudi Arabia, saying Al-Swailem’s position as head of the charities entitled him to diplomatic immunity due to the charities being agencies of the Saudi government.


U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted Al-Swailem’s motion last week, ruling he was entitled to immunity.


“Here, the Saudi government, through its ambassador, has requested that this court grant common law sovereign immunity to Al-Swailem, and has declared that all alleged actions were taken by Al-Swailem in his official capacity as head of the SRC and the SJRC,” Daniels wrote.


“The conclusory allegations in the complaint do not strip Al-Swailem of conduct-based immunity for actions taken in his official capacity. The only non-conclusory allegation, regarding Al-Swailem’s hiring decision, is an action taken in his official capacity - not his personal - capacity. Thus, Al-Swailem is entitled to common law, conduct-based sovereign immunity.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Saudi Charity Boss Immune in 9/11 Suits (by Kevin Lessmiller, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Insurance Co., et al. v. Al Qaida, et al (U.S. District Court, Southern New York) (pdf)

Saudi Arabia’s New King, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Has Been Target of Lawsuits by Survivors of 9/11 Attacks (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Federal Court Reinstates Saudi Arabia as Defendant in 9/11 Survivors’ Lawsuit (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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