NEW YORK — In an historic hearing in the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels said he planned to issue a ruling in the coming days declaring that Iran shares in the responsibility for the 9/11 terror attacks.
“The extensive record submitted to this court, including fact witnesses and expert testimony, is satisfactory to this court,” Judge Daniels said. The court “accepts as true” the various allegations of the plaintiffs and their experts, he declared, and “will issue an order” in the coming days that Iran bears legal responsibility for providing “material support” to the 9/11 plotters and hijackers.
Family members of 9/11 victims who attended the open-court hearing broke into tears. They had nervously sat through a four-hour presentation by attorneys Thomas E. Mellon, Jr., and Timothy B. Fleming, consisting of evidence backing up their claims that Iran had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and actively assisted the hijackers in planning, preparing, and executing their plan.
“My husband’s name is on that lawsuit,” said Fiona Havlish, the lead plaintiff in the case against Iran. Her spouse, Donald G. Havlish, Jr, perished on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. “This is about my husband, all our husbands, our loved ones, our sons, our daughters.”
Ellen Saracini, whose husband, Victor Saracini, took off that morning at the controls of United Airlines Flight 175, called it “a historic day” because a U.S. court found that Iran was responsible for the attacks. “When I heard the verdict, I just smiled up to Victor and said, ‘we’re still thinking about you up there.’”
In presenting evidence gathered by the attorneys and their outside investigator, Timothy Fleming revealed tantalizing details of still-sealed videotaped depositions provided by three defectors from Iranian intelligence organizations.
One of those defectors was “physically present” when al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, came to Iran in January 2001 for four days of intense closed-door meetings with the top leadership in Iran to discuss the impending attacks.
Another took part in writing up the debriefing reports of Iran’s al-Qaida liaison, Imad Mugniyeh, once he returned to Iran from Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
The most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Fleming unveiled the identity of a third defector and described in detail the information he had provided.
The defector, Abdolghassem Mesbahi, had been a confidant of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, and headed up European operations for the new regime’s fledging intelligence service in the early 1980s.
Then, Mesbahi actively took part in developing a set of terrorist contingency plans, called “Shaitan der atash” — meaning “Satan in the Flames,” or “Satan on Fire” — to be used against the United States.