Legal team also reveals that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was 'potential witness' in lawsuit People gather at 9/11 memorial in New York following commemoration ceremony for victims (AFP/File photo)
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By MEE staff in Washington Published date: 5 March 2020 20:39 UTC A legal team representing survivors and familes of victims of the 9/11 attacks has accused Saudi authorities of trying to silence several witnesses. An almost two-decades-old lawsuit brought to court by thousands of victims and their families accuses Saudi officials of having ties to the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. About 3,000 people were killed. On Wednesday, lawyers representing the families said that four of their witnesses in the case had been threatened or intimidated by alleged Saudi agents. On those grounds, the plaintiffs' legal team requested that the identities of the witnesses in the drawn-out legal battle be protected and kept secret. Lawyers representing the Saudi government denied the allegations of witness tampering, saying the claims were "based on hearsay within hearsay". The defense also accused the plaintiffs' lawyers of trying to gain a "tactical advantage" in legal deposition interviews with witnesses set to be organised later this month. Jamal Khashoggi: 'A potential witness' The lawyers of the 9/11 victims invoked the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials in Turkey as evidence of the kingdom's potential threat against their witnesses. Andrew Maloney, one of several attorneys representing the plaintiffs, also for the first time revealed that Khashoggi, an ardent critic of the Saudi government, had been "a potential witness" before he was murdered. "He had valuable information," Maloney told the judge on Wednesday. Maloney, during the emergency hearing that took place at a federal court in lower Manhattan, did not provide further details regarding what that information might have been. US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn said she was "troubled by the allegations" and asked for a submission from the plaintiffs’ lawyers detailing the claims to be turned in by 18 March. "I take these allegations incredibly seriously," Netburn said. 'Absolutely false' In court papers, Maloney described some of the allegations made by the four witnesses who said they feared they were being targeted by Saudi officials. One witness said his family had been approached and "directly threatened by Saudi government officials" within the past year, Maloney wrote. He said the witness was given to understand that he or his relatives "would be murdered" if he spoke out. Another potential witness said that relatives in Saudi Arabia "feared for their lives", Maloney said. A third reported being stalked, and another was reportedly thinking of buying a bulletproof vest. He added that law enforcement authorities had been notified of the alleged threats. "We categorically deny these allegations," said Michael Kellogg, a DC-based lawyer representing Saudi Arabia. Kellogg accused the plaintiff's legal team of trying to "pick and choose which witnesses will testify". "We should be allowed to know who these witnesses are," Kellogg told Judge Netburn. "We think these allegations are absolutely false." Following Kellogg's statements, the plaintiffs' lawyer accused the defense of wanting to know the identities of the witnesses so that Saudi officials could be notified and "dissuade them from testifying". "[No] Saudi Arabian government official, employee, agent, or anyone acting on Saudi Arabia's behalf has attempted to threaten any potential witness or any witness's family members in this proceeding," a Saudi government minister said in court papers. Saudi diplomat linked to 9/11 - Fahad al-Thumairy The US government has never released documentation indicating that the Saudi government was involved in 9/11. Still, last year during a meeting at the White House with victims' families on the anniversary of the attacks, US PresidentDonald Trump promised the visitors that he would order the attorney general to release the name of a Saudi diplomat who had apparently been linked to 9/11 in an FBI report years earlier. The next day those hopes were dashed, as Attorney GeneralWilliam Barr said the release of such records would not be possible. Their disclosure risked "significant harm to the national security," Barr said at the time. The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In March 2018, a US judge in New York rejected Saudi Arabia's request to dismiss the lawsuit. --- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wail_al-Shehri Waleed al-Shehri was reported to have been found alive by a BBCNews article on September 23, 2001, and other news reports in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Reports said that the Shehri brothers were the sons of a Saudi diplomat stationed in New Delhi, Ahmed al-Shehri. The diplomat's son was trained as a pilot at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and was working as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. At the time of the attacks, he was in Morocco for a training program. There were also reports that Wail al-Shehri was a trained pilot. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Saudi officials suggested that Wail and Waleed al-Shehri were victims of identity theft, but the diplomat's son was the victim of mistaken identity.
Jamal Khashoggi, of Al-Watan and ArabNews in Saudi Arabia, spoke with Muhammad Ali al-Shehri in Khamis Mushait, who said his sons Wail and Waleed had been missing for months. Wail al-Shehri's father denied reports that Wail had an aeronautics degree, as some news reports said, "My son Wail was 25 years old and had a BA in physical education from the Abha Teacher’s College. He was mentally ill and had gone to numerous clerics for assistance in overcoming this instability. He had asked the school, where he taught, for a 6-month leave to go to Madinah." His father also told reporters that he dreaded having to believe that Wail and Waleed were involved in the September 11 attacks, "If that turns out to be the truth, then I'll never, never accept it from them. I'll never forgive them for that." Family members said that Wail and Waleed became very religious in the months before they disappeared, had expressed interest in going to Chechnya, and hoped for martyrdom. In a report entitled "A Saudi Apology" for Dateline NBC aired on August 25, 2002, John Hockenberry traveled to Asir, where he interviewed Shehri's brother, Salah, who agreed that Wail and Waleed were deceased. Salah described them as not very religious, and suggested they had been brainwashed.
Saudi officials later stated that the names of the hijackers were in fact correct, and that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. In response to 9/11 conspiracy theories surrounding its original news story suggesting hijackers were still alive, the BBC stated in 2006 that later reports on the hijackers superseded the original story. The BBC also explained that confusion arose with the Arabic names that were common. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/magazine/9-11-saudi-arabia-fbi.html The Saudi Connection: Inside the 9/11 Case That Divided the F.B.I. ---...