The district judge said the victims cannot seize the bank’s assets because the United States has not recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government.
A US judge has ruled that family members of victims of September 11, 2001terrorist attacks are not eligible for Afghan central bank funds.
In Tuesday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge George Daniels said awarding money seized from the Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) to the families would require an assessment that the taliban is the legitimate government of Afghanistan, a decision he was “constitutionally prevented” from making.
“Judgment creditors have the right to recover their default judgments and be compensated for the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history, but they cannot do so with funds from the central bank of Afghanistan,” Daniels wrote.
“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,” he added.
In February 2022, the administration of US President Joe Biden released a controversial executive order stating that he would share $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets between the Afghan people and the families of 9/11 victims who sued the Taliban.
Although the Taliban were not directly involved in the attacks, lawyers for the families claimed they aided al-Qaeda, which masterminded the attack, by allowing the group to operate in Afghanistan.
Bilal Askaryar, an Afghan-American activist, told Al Jazeera at the time of the order that the Afghan people “had nothing to do with 9/11” and called the decision a “steal of public funds from a nation impoverished”.
Tuesday’s decision upholds an earlier decision in August 2022, when the U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn also recommended that victims of 9/11 could not seize money from the Afghan central bank to satisfy court judgments against the Taliban.
That would amount to recognizing the Taliban as the rightful rulers of Afghanistan, something Netburn said only the US president can do.
Since the Taliban swept away the US-backed government and took power in August 2021the Biden administration has not recognized the group as the official ruling party in the country.
Responding to the decision, Lee Wolosky, an attorney for a group of creditors known as the Havlish plaintiffs, called the finding “ill-decided” and said the group would appeal.
“This decision deprives more than 10,000 members of the 9/11 community of their right to collect compensation from the Taliban,” he said.
In a statement sent to Al Jazeera via text message on Tuesday, Arash Azzizada, co-founder of US-based Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, welcomed the decision.
“Justice will not be served by plundering the coffers of a people suffering from one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet,” he said.