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9/11 bill passed unanimously by US Senate despite warnings from Saudi Arabia

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 18 May 2016, 16:16 IST

Victims of the 9/11 attacks will now be able to file lawsuits seeking damages from Saudi Arabia after the US Senate passed a legislation on Tuesday.

The Senate passed the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act," or JASTA, with unanimous voice vote. Next, it must be taken up by the US House of Representatives, where no vote has been scheduled yet.

The Saudis, who have denied responsibility for the 2001 attacks, strongly objected to the bill and threatened to sell up to $750 billion in US securities and other American assets in retaliation if it becomes a law.

According to NDTV, if JASTA becomes a law it would remove the sovereign immunity, preventing lawsuits against governments of countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on US soil. It would allow survivors of the attacks, and relatives of those killed in the attacks, to seek damages from these countries.

In this case, it would allow lawsuits to proceed to Federal Court in New York as lawyers try to prove that the Saudis were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Today the Senate has spoken loudly and unanimously that the families of victims of terrorist attacks should be able to hold the perpetrators, even if it's a country, a nation, accountable," Schumer told a news conference, reported NDTV.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, also a sponsor of the bill, said it was up to the court to decide whether the Saudis were liable. "I don't believe that this will be destructive of the relationship that we have with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said.

The Obama administration has said that it opposes JASTA and that President Barack Obama would veto it. When asked if Senate Democrats would back a veto, Schumer said he would vote against Obama.

First published: 18 May 2016, 16:16 IST