9/11 Victims Blocked From Seizing $3.5B in Frozen Afghan Assets

9/11 Victims Blocked From Seizing $3.5B in Frozen Afghan Assets

  • Families of 9/11 victims cannot seize $3.5 billion in frozen funds from the Afghan central bank.
  • A federal judge has ruled that seizing the funds would amount to recognizing the Taliban as legitimate leaders.
  • That’s up to President Joe Biden, not the courts, to make, the judge said.

Efforts by 9/11 victims to seize $3.5 billion in frozen assets belonging to the Central Bank of Afghanistan have failed because President Joe Biden’s administration does not recognize the Taliban as the country’s legitimate government.

A federal judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that seizure of assets to pay off court debts would be blocked because federal courts do not have the legal jurisdiction to approve the rotation of funds.

It would amount to recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of the nation, Judge George Daniels said in his 30-page decision, published by the New York Timeswhat only the government can do.

The United States does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.

The group was ousted from power by a US-led military coalition in 2001, but took control of Afghanistan in August 2021 after the withdrawal of Western troops.

A group of families of 9/11 victims previously sued the Taliban over their losses, winning a default judgment when the militant group failed to appear in court.

Daniels said he was “constitutionally barred” from providing access to the funds, even though judgment creditors are entitled to collect.

Last February, Biden opened a legal route for relatives to reclaim the $3.5 billion held in the Afghan central bank to repay judgment debts. An executive order decided to freeze $7 billion in central bank assets, with half earmarked for aid to the Afghan people and the other half for 9/11 families.

But because of the new ruling, which cites federal and constitutional law, the Taliban cannot be said to control central bank money without being officially recognized as representing Afghanistan.

“The Taliban, not the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Afghan people, must pay for the Taliban’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks,” Daniels said.

He added that neither the Taliban nor court creditors have “the right to loot Afghan state coffers to pay Taliban debts.”

The decision is a disappointment for the families, said Lee Wolosky, an attorney who argued for compensation for victims, according to BBC News.

“This decision deprives more than 10,000 members of the 9/11 community of their right to receive compensation from the Taliban,” he said. “We believe the decision was made wrongly and we will appeal.”

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