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(Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Friday recommended that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks not be allowed to seize billions of dollars of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank to satisfy court judgments they obtained against the Taliban.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan said Da Afghanistan Bank was immune from jurisdiction, and that allowing the seizures would effectively acknowledge the Islamist militant group as the Afghan government, something only the U.S. president can do.
“The Taliban's victims have fought for years for justice, accountability and compensation. They are entitled to no less,” Judge Netburn wrote. “But the law limits what compensation the court may authorize, and those limits put the DAB's assets beyond its authority.”
Judge Netburn's recommendation will be reviewed by U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan, who also oversees the litigation and can decide whether to accept her recommendation.
The decision is a defeat for four groups of creditors that sued a variety of defendants, including al-Qaeda, that they held responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, and obtained default judgments after the defendants failed to show up 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 U.S. and other Western forces withdrew from the country.
The groups have been trying to tap into some of the $7 billion of Afghan central bank funds that are frozen at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.