Families of 9/11 victims win billions in suit against Iran

Landmark ruling awards billions of dollars to relatives of 9/11 victims over Iranian aid to 9/11 plot.

David Rosenberg, | updated: 10:26

World Trade Center 9/11 attacks
World Trade Center 9/11 attacks

Relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks were awarded billions in damages in a lawsuit against the Iranian government over its support for the terror plot that left some 3,000 people dead in 2001.

Judge George B. Daniels of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York signed off on the order Monday, following a lawsuit against “the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

As part of the ruling, Judge Daniels ordered Iran to pay a total of more than $6 billion to relatives of roughly 1,000 relatives of victims killed on September 11th, 2001.

The damages include $12.5 million for spouses of victims killed in the attacks, $8.5 million for parents and children of victims, and $4.25 million for siblings. The court ruling adds a 4.96% annual interest to the amount of the damages, calculated retroactively from the day of the attacks nearly 17 years ago.

While the claimants are unlikely to ever collect the money awarded them by the court, the ruling could have major implications as a precedent for similar lawsuits against Saudi Arabia.

“It is difficult for those injured or left behind to ignore the findings of the federal court about Iran’s culpability,” attorney Robert Haefele, who represented the plaintiffs, told ABC News.

“But those findings should not overshadow the mountain of evidence presented against Saudi Arabia, which remains central to the plaintiffs’ case.”

The default ruling was made after the Iranian government and other subjects of the suit failed to respond. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2004, but was barred from proceeding until 2016 because of limitations imposed on the ability of US courts to rule against foreign governments. More than 40 lawsuits were originally filed against Iran over its alleged role in 9/11, but were later merged into the single suit including more than 1,000 relatives of 9/11 victims.

Under the 1976 Foreign Sovereignty Immunities Act, foreign governments are immune from rulings by US courts in all but a handful of situations.

In 2016, however, Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, modifying the 1976 law and enabling relatives of victims killed on September 11th to sue the Saudi Kingdom and other governments for their alleged support for the hijackers.

The bill, which was passed after Congress overrode President Obama’s veto, had been strongly criticized by the Saudi government, which has denied allegations against it regarding alleged aid to the hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

The suit claimed that Iran aided and even helped train 9/11 hijackers, though the 9/11 Commission did not find direct evidence regarding Iran’s role in the preparation for the attacks.