11 Families Sue Saudis, Banks
Thu Aug 15, 4:12 PM ET
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Some 600 family members of Sept.
11 victims filed a trillion-dollar federal lawsuit
Thursday against Saudi officials, banks and
charities, charging they financed Osama bin Laden
( news - web sites)'s network and the attacks on
New York and Washington.
The 15-count lawsuit, modeled after action filed
against Libya in the Pan Am flight 103 disaster,
seeks to cripple banks, charities and some members
of the Saudi royal family as a deterrent to
terrorist financing schemes.
But the suit also is therapeutic, and the
plaintiffs face long odds, the families
"It's not the money. We want to do something
to get at these people," said Irene Spina,
whose daughter, Lisa L. Trerotola, 38, perished in
the World Trade Center. "There's nothing else
we can do."
"This is the right thing to do," said
Matt Sellito, father of Matthew Carmen Sellito,
23, who also died in the World Trade Center.
"If the odds are stacked against us, we will
The 258-page complaint, filed electronically
Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria,
seeks more than $1 trillion and charges the
defendants with racketeering, wrongful death,
negligence and conspiracy.
Lead attorney Ron Motley said the money would
likely come largely from assets held by the
defendants in the United States. He said the
plaintiffs were after more institutions than those
whose assets already have been frozen by the U.S.
and other governments.
The complaint also ignores the Bush
administration's delicate diplomatic balancing act
with Saudi Arabia by bluntly blaming the kingdom's
officials and institutions for the attacks.
"That kingdom sponsors terrorism,"
Motley told reporters at a news conference.
"This is an insidious group of
The complaint names more than seven dozen
defendants, including the government of Sudan,
seven banks, eight Islamic foundations and three
Those listed include Princes Mohammed al Faisal al
Saud and Turki al Faisal al Saud, Saudi Defense
Minister Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, Khalid bin
Salim bin Mahfouz of the National Commercial Bank,
and the Faisal Islamic Bank.
Officials from the Saudi Embassy did not
immediately return a call for comment.
President Bush ( news - web sites)'s
administration has been careful not to blame the
Saudi government for the attacks in its drive
build a coalition for its war against
Prince Saud said last week that the 70-year-old
U.S.-Saudi alliance was as solid now as before the
Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
He said bin Laden, who was stripped of Saudi
citizenship and is accused of directing the
al-Qaida attacks, had intended to drive a wedge
between the two countries when he chose 15 Saudi
citizens to be among the 19 hijackers.
Several plaintiffs, fighting tears, said they
would dedicate the rest of their lives to
punishing those who financed the attacks.
"We will succeed because we have the facts
and the law on our side," said Thomas E.
Burnett Sr., whose son, Thomas E. Burnett Jr., led
a passenger revolt against the hijackers of United
Airlines Flight 93 and died when it plummeted to
"We have justice and morality on our
side," he added.
In May, lawyers announced that a group of Libyans
had negotiated a deal that would give $10 million
each to the families of the Lockerbie victims. But
Libya insisted the group did not have
authorization from the government to negotiate.
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