22 February 2023
District judge says victims cannot seize bank’s assets since the US has not recognised the Taliban as a legitimate government.
In the ruling on Tuesday, US District Judge George Daniels said that awarding the families money seized from the Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) would require an assessment that the Taliban is the legitimate government of Afghanistan, a decision he was “constitutionally restrained” from making.
“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,” he added.
In February 2022, the administration of US President Joe Biden issued a controversial executive order stating it would split $7bn in frozen assets from Afghanistan’s central bank between the Afghan people and families of 9/11 victims who sued the Taliban.
While the Taliban was not directly involved in the attacks, lawyers for the families argued it had helped enable al-Qaeda, which mounted 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 “theft of public funds from an impoverished nation”.
Tuesday’s ruling upholds a previous decision in August 2022, when US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn also recommended that victims of 9/11 could not seize cash from the Afghan central bank to satisfy court judgements against the Taliban.
Since the Taliban swept aside the US-backed government and took power in August 2021, the Biden administration has not recognised the group as the country’s official ruling party.
In a statement sent to Al Jazeera via text on Tuesday, Arash Azzizada, co-founder of the US-based Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, welcomed the decision.
“Justice will not be served by raiding the coffers of a people suffering from one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet,” he said.