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The Saudi Binladin Group is not liable for the Sept. 11 attacks

by Lar­ry Neumeis­ter
Asso­ci­at­ed Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The Sau­di Bin­ladin Group is not liable for the Sept. 11 attacks, attor­neys for the multi­na­tion­al engi­neer­ing firm claim, because it made Osama bin Laden sur­ren­der his stake in the com­pa­ny 14 years ago.

Respond­ing in fed­er­al court to law­suits over the attacks, the lawyers wrote that in 1993, the ter­ror­ist mas­ter­mind was forced out as a share­hold­er in two com­pa­nies his fam­i­ly owns.

The com­pa­ny filed the defense papers late Fri­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court in answer to claims brought by rep­re­sen­ta­tives, sur­vivors and insur­ance car­ri­ers of the vic­tims. The plain­tiffs, who seek bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages, allege the Sau­di Bin­ladin Group, along with numer­ous banks, char­i­ties and indi­vid­u­als world­wide, pro­vid­ed mate­r­i­al sup­port and assis­tance to al-Qai­da pri­or to the attacks.

The plain­tiffs con­tend Bakr bin Laden — Osama bin Laden’s broth­er, the senior mem­ber of the bin Laden fam­i­ly and chair­man of Sau­di Bin­ladin Group — was one of al-Qaida’s prin­ci­pal financiers.

A judge in July had ordered Sau­di Bin­ladin Group to pro­vide addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion about where the mon­ey for Osama bin Laden’s 2 per­cent stake in the com­pa­ny went.

In the Fri­day fil­ing, lawyers for Sau­di Bin­ladin Group said Bakr Bin­ladin pub­licly renounced Osama bin Laden in a state­ment released to the media in Feb­ru­ary 1994. Two months lat­er, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment revoked Osama bin Laden’s cit­i­zen­ship and froze his assets, the lawyers not­ed.

These actions, they said, occurred well before the Unit­ed States first placed Osama bin Laden on its list of des­ig­nat­ed ter­ror­ist indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions on Aug. 20, 1998.

Osama bin Laden has more than 50 sib­lings who share in the for­tune amassed after Osama’s father, Mohammed Bin­ladin, built his con­struc­tion empire, ele­vat­ing his fam­i­ly to among the wealth­i­est in Sau­di Ara­bia. The al-Qai­da founder’s finan­cial worth has remained in dis­pute.

Accord­ing to the court papers, Sau­di Bin­ladin Group was cre­at­ed as the sur­viv­ing enti­ty of Mohammed Bin­lad­in’s con­struc­tion com­pa­ny, which was formed in the 1930s. Moham­mad Bin­ladin died in 1967, and own­er­ship of his com­pa­nies was passed along to his chil­dren.

The lawyers said the Sau­di Bin­ladin Group had helped the Unit­ed States, build­ing the King Abdul Aziz Air Base, from which U.S. forces oper­at­ed dur­ing the first Gulf War.

The Sept. 11 com­mis­sion con­clud­ed that the Sudanese gov­ern­ment took Osama bin Laden’s assets when he left the Sudan in 1996.

“He left Sudan with prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing,” the com­mis­sion con­clud­ed. “When bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, he relied on the Tal­iban until he was able to rein­vig­o­rate his fundrais­ing efforts by draw­ing on ties to wealthy Sau­di indi­vid­u­als that he had estab­lished dur­ing the Afghan war in the 1980s.”

Lawyers for the bin Laden fam­i­ly com­pa­nies have said Osama bin Laden nev­er received any buy­out pay­ment. They said the com­pa­nies con­sult­ed with Sau­di author­i­ties, who direct­ed that the mon­ey be placed in trust out­side Osama bin Laden’s con­trol.

A mes­sage left Mon­day with a lawyer for the plain­tiffs was not imme­di­ate­ly returned.

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