Theresa May rejects appeal from 9/11 survivors to release suppressed Saudi Arabia terror report

The survivors described the UK response as 'shameful' 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Thursday 17 August 2017 16:41 BST
Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks
Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks

Theresa May has rejected an appeal from survivors of the 9/11 attacks to make public a suppressed report into the role of Saudi Arabia in funding Islamist extremism in the UK.

Earlier this summer, the British government announced it had decided not to publish the information, citing national security reasons and the “vast amount of personal information” it contained.

Among those calling for Ms May to make public the report, which was commissioned by her predecessor, David Cameron, was a US group of survivors of the 9/11 attacks and relatives of some of the almost 3,000 people who were killed.

May denies suppressing report into Saudi Arabia's funding of extremism to protect arms deals

“The UK now has the unique historic opportunity to stop the killing spree of Wahhabism-inspired terrorists by releasing the UK government’s report on terrorism financing in the UK which, according to media reports, places Saudi Arabia at its centre of culpability,” said the letter, signed by 15 people.

But the British government has rejected their request in a letter that the group has described as “shameful”.

“[The] response did not convey that much would change in the future for one simple reason: the US and the UK continue to protect Saudi Arabia, allowing them to operate freely, with impunity, even supplying them with lethal weapons, as they go about their usual business of inspiring intolerance, committing genocide and human rights violations,” said Sharon Premoli, who was on the 80th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre when the first Al-Qaeda plane hit.

Brett Eagleson, whose son John perished on the 17th floor of the South Tower, said the British government was withholding potentially crucial information.

Ground Zero in New York City

“When the UK government had the opportunity to shed light on the funding of terrorism and had the opportunity to make real inroads on the global fight against terror, they have chosen to take the path of least resistance by putting the cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia before the safety of its owns citizens,” he said. “It’s a shameful day for democracy.”

Ellen Sarancini, the widow of a pilot on United Airlines Flight 175 which was hijacked after taking off from Boston and flown into the South Tower, said the UK response was the latest in a series of rejections.

“For 15 years, we have been blocked by our own government who, along with the UK, continue to protect Saudi Arabia at the expense of their citizens,” she said. “The UK report has the potential for ending terrorism by outing those at the centre of its funding but refuses to do so.”

Although 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked New York and Washington were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the authorities in Riyadh have long denied having any official role in the attack. They have also rejected legal actions seeking compensations.

Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed in New York on behalf of the families of 850 individuals who were killed and 1,500 who were injured. It claims that Saudi supported Al-Qaeda in four critical ways – supporting government-linked charities that ran training camps, directly funding Osama Bin Laden’s terror group, supporting the hijackers by providing them with passports and, finally, offering on-the-ground support to the hijackers in the 18 months leading up to the attacks.

Earlier this month, lawyers for Saudi Arabia filed a motion seeking to have the suit dismissed. The 75-page document concludes by saying: “Saudi Arabia’s motion to dismiss should be granted.”

A number of historians have pointed out that Britain and the US have a long history of promoting and using Islamist extremists when it has suited their different needs. Mark Curtis, the historian and author of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, wrote recently that Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting Wahhabism had been known for decades.

“The British elite is perfectly aware of the insidious role that Saudi Arabia plays in fomenting terrorism,” he said.

Britain has previously moved to ensure strategic ties with Saudi Arabia are not damaged by covering up damaging information. In 2006, Tony Blair halted a major criminal investigation into alleged corruption by the arms company BAE Systems and payments to Saudi officials involved in the Al-Yamamah arms deal.

The letter informing the 9/11 survivors that their request was being rejected was sent from the office of Home Office minister Baroness Williams.

It does not mention Saudi Arabia but said the report had concluded there are a “small number of organisations in the UK who receive support, including funding, from overseas”.

It added: “I hope you will appreciate that the review report is classified because of the volume of personal information it contains but also for national security reasons.”

The call for the report to be made public was supported by the Labour Party and Green Party Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas.

In addition to the 2,605 US citizens who were killed in the attacks, were victims from 61 countries. The second largest number were Britons, who totaled 67.

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