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November 17, 2011

Ten Years Later: Schumer says victims deserve the justice they are owed

On Behalf of the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism

JASTA bill commended for its goals and bipartisan introduction

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 17, 2011 - Hailing it as a victory for justice and accountability, the 9/11 Families praised the introduction of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) today.  JASTA was introduced by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) with broad bipartisan support of original cosponsors Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

"This legislation has become necessary due to flawed court decisions that have deprived the victims of terrorism on American soil, including those injured by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, of their day in court.  Unfortunately, and contrary to the clear intent of Congress, some courts have concluded that Americans who were injured due to terrorist attacks in the United States have no recourse against the foreign states that sponsor those attacks.  This conclusion is contrary to the plain language of the FSIA (Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act) and ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act), and it is bad policy," said Senator Schumer.

"While existing law was designed to enable victims of terrorism to bring suit against foreign states and entities that sponsor terrorism in the United States, the Second Circuit Court has thrown out claims made by victims of the 9/11 terror attacks against Saudi Arabia and charities based in the country, that evidence suggests had a direct role in helping to finance the attacks," he added in a statement to the press.

"I am so grateful for the leadership shown by Senator Schumer and his fellow Senators.  Over two years ago, a federal court ruled in a twisted misinterpretation of anti-terrorism laws that many of those who funded the 9/11 attacks could not be held liable in a U.S. civil court," said Mrs. Beverly Burnett of Bloomington, Minn., mother of Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., one of the heroes of United Flight 93. "All those whom we allege provided financial and material support for the attacks that killed our son and 3,000 other innocent people, no matter their position or family lineage, must be brought to justice if we are to stop the terrorist financial pipeline and make America safer."

"JASTA corrects egregious errors and a complete miscarriage of justice that was created by the ruling of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2009," said Sharon Premoli of Dorset, Vt., who was trapped by the collapse of the World Trade Center and maintains an advocacy website, www.JusticeAgainstTerrorism.net. Premoli also noted that the Second Circuit's ruling held that no one could be held accountable for financing or supporting a terrorist attack in the United States as long as the money or support was given outside the United States.;

"This bill corrects that ludicrous reading of current law.  It also deals with the other part of the court's interpretation, that sovereign immunity which does not extend to a sovereign killing someone accidently but wrongfully - e.g., killing someone in a car wreck - is extended to someone who has supported a terrorist act that kills someone intentionally," says Premoli. "That defies both logic and justice."

"JASTA is not designed to use the legislative process solely to overturn a court ruling that terror victims disagree with," said Terry Strada of New Vernon, N.J., widow of Tom Strada, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. "What it does, first and foremost, is makes clear to the courts what Congress always intended. Beyond that, it resolves disagreements among different U.S. Courts of Appeals, some of which have ruled consistently with the core principles of the law. Basically, it restores common sense."

"We have great hope that this bill becomes law. The only way to effectively stop terrorism is to dry up the money," said Linda and Martin Panik of Mingoville, Penn., parents of Lt. Jonas Panik who died in the Pentagon. "The courts need to be directed to understand that we do not care what someone's rank is in another country. If they give money to terrorists and their networks, we're coming after them."

"I want justice, I want my day in court," said Bill Doyle of The Villages, Fla., father of Joseph M. Doyle who died in the World Trade Center. "It is time for Congress to clarify its intent on anti-terrorism law. Osama bin Laden may be dead, but a lot of the people that provided the money and support are free and never had to answer to anyone. That cannot stand."

"JASTA will restore the rights of the victims of terrorism and deter international terrorist financing, and it will have the related benefit of enabling the victims of the September 11 Attacks to proceed with their case, as Congress had intended. And it does so without in any way threatening sensitive national security or diplomatic priorities of the nation. In fact, it makes the nation stronger," said Schumer.

Senator Schumer Press Release

The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism

This group is comprised of more than 6,600 family members of those killed in the attacks of 9/11 and those injured as well. They are united in the cause of pursuing justice and deterring future terrorist attacks. To do so, they are using the civil legal system to pursue those who allegedly financed and provided support for the cowardly terrorist attacks. The case is In re Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment & Development Corp., et al., Case No. 03-CV-9849 (GBD); In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03 MDL 1570. The families are represented by complex civil litigation firm Motley Rice LLC.

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