(Reuters) — A U.S. judge recommended on Friday that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks should not be allowed to seize billions of dollars in assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank to satisfy court judgments against the Taliban.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan said Da Afghanistan Bank was immune from jurisdiction, and that if allowed to be seized, the Islamist militant group would effectively recognize the Afghan government, something only the president of the United States can do.
“Victims of the Taliban have fought for years for justice, accountability and compensation. They are entitled to nothing less,” Judge Netburn wrote. “But the law limits what compensation the court can approve, and those limits put the DAB̵7;s assets outside its jurisdiction.”
Judge Netburn’s recommendation will be reviewed by U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan, who is also overseeing the trial and may decide whether to accept her recommendation.
The decision is a defeat for four groups of creditors who sued a variety of defendants, including al-Qaida, whom they held responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, and who received default judgments after the defendants failed to appear in court.
At the time of the attacks, the ruling Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate inside Afghanistan.
The United States ousted the Taliban and al-Qaeda in late 2001, but the Taliban returned to power a year ago when the United States and other Western forces withdrew from the country.
The groups have sought to tap some of the $7 billion in Afghan central bank funds frozen at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.