A coalition of Afghan-American community organizations on Wednesday welcomed a U.S. federal judge's ruling rejecting a bid by relatives of 9/11 victims to seize billions of dollars in assets belonging to the people of Afghanistan.
In a 30-page opinion issued Tuesday, Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York denied an effort by family members of people killed during the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to gain access to $3.5 billion in frozen funds from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country's central bank.
"The judgment creditors are entitled to collect on their default judgments and be made whole for the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, but they cannot do so with the funds of 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 liability in the 9/11 attacks."
The frozen assets are currently being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the wake of the Taliban's reconquest of the nation that, under the militant group's previous rule, hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other figures involved in planning and executing the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The 9/11 attacks resulted in a U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that lasted nearly two decades, the longest war in American history.
"We are pleased to see that Judge Daniels shares the same assessment we laid out in our amicus brief to the court: That this money belongs to the Afghan people, and no one else," the coalition – Afghans for a Better Tomorrow (AFBT) – said in a statement.
? VICTORY FOR THE AFGHAN PEOPLE
Our coalition of Afghan-American community organizations welcomes a judgment by a federal judge that rejects a bid to seize assets by the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks.
— Afghans For A Better Tomorrow (@AfghansTomorrow) February 22, 2023
In February 2022, the Biden administration said it would split $7 billion in frozen DAB funds between the people of Afghanistan and victims of the 9/11 attacks who sued the Taliban – a move that one critic warned would amount to a "death sentence for untold numbers of civilians" in a war-ravaged country reeling from multiple humanitarian crises including widespread starvation.
Last August, US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn said that 9/11 families should not be allowed to use billions of frozen DAB funds to pay off legal judgments against the Taliban.
"Just like the families of the September 11th attack victims, the Afghan people are no stranger to the Taliban's brutality and rule," AFBT co-director Arash Azizzada said. "We support the 9/11 families' quest for just compensation, but believe justice will not be achieved by 'raiding the coffers,' as Judge Daniels put [it], of a people already suffering."
This wouldn’t have been possible without the selfless efforts of many 9/11 victims’ families — from @PeacefulTomorro and beyond — that refused to let their own tragedy be used to justify another tragedy for the Afghan people https://t.co/ehphzAqIPI
— Michael Galant (@michael_galant) February 22, 2023
Homaira Hosseini, a board member of coalition member Afghan-American Community Organization (AACO), asserted that "an appeal of this decision, which the 9/11 families have stated they will pursue, will only cause further harm to both Afghans and the families involved."
"We continue to encourage these families to seek legal retribution elsewhere," Hosseini added, "and to not further harm Afghans in the process."
Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.