WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has refused to allow victimsof the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia andfour of its princes over charitable donations that were allegedlyfunneled to al-Qaida.
The court, in an order Monday, is leaving in place the ruling ofa federal appeals court that the country and the princes areprotected by sovereign immunity, which generally means that foreigncountries can't be sued in American courts.
The Obama administration had angered some victims and familiesby urging the justices to pass up the case.
In their appeal, the more than 6,000 plaintiffs said thegovernment's court brief filed in early June was an "apparenteffort to appease a sometime ally" just before President BarackObama's visit to Saudi Arabia.
At issue were obstacles in American law to suing foreigngovernments and their officials as well as the extent to whichpeople can be held financially responsible for acts of terrorismcommitted by others.
The appeal was filed by relatives of victims killed in theattacks and thousands of people who were injured, as well asbusinesses and governments that sustained property damage and otherlosses.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York previouslyupheld a federal judge's ruling throwing out the lawsuits. Theappeals court said the defendants were protected by sovereignimmunity and the plaintiffs would need to prove that the princesengaged in intentional actions aimed at U.S. residents.
In their appeal to the high court, both sides cited the reportof the Sept. 11 Commission. The victims noted that the report saidSaudi Arabia had long been considered the primary source ofal-Qaida funding. The Saudis' court filing, however, pointed outthat the commission "found no evidence that the Saudi governmentas an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded theorganization."
The victims' lawsuits claim that the defendants gave money tocharities in order to funnel it to terrorist organizations thatwere behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The appeal also stressed that federal appeals courts havereached conflicting decisions about when foreign governments andtheir officials can be sued.
The case is Federal Insurance Co. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,08-640.