Saturday, December 22, 2007

Judge: 9/11 defendants must turn over materials from 1992 --

NEW YORK - Defendants in lawsuits resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks must turn over materials from as far back as 1992, when it appears that Osama bin Laden called for a holy war against the United States, a federal judge said Friday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels affects defendants in lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages from numerous banks, charities and individuals worldwide who are alleged to have supported al-Qaida before the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Daniels said it was reasonable to require organizations such as the Muslim World League, the International Islamic Relief Organization and Wa'el Jelaidan to turn over evidence necessary to decide the merits of lawsuits brought by representatives, survivors and insurance carriers of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The groups had argued that they should not be required to turn over documents that were made prior to 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwah declaring war on Americans. They also argued that the materials were overly burdensome and outweighed any potential value to plaintiffs.

In ruling, Daniels noted that 1992 was the year when bin Laden is alleged to have joined other senior al-Qaida leaders to issue a formal fatwah calling for violence against the United States and other Western allies.

Lawyers for defendants in the lawsuits have said it was unfair to require them to turn over the earlier documents because the defendants were not adequately put on notice about al-Qaida's terrorist activities towards the United States until the 1996 fatwah.

A message left with a lawyer for defendants was not immediately returned Friday.

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