Saudi Arabia, homeland of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, can't be sued by families of victims for its alleged role in the attacks, a federal judge decided on Tuesday. US District Judge George Daniels ruled that the evidence—including "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui's claim that Saudi royals funded al-Qaeda—wasn't enough to remove the "sovereign immunity" that shields other countries from lawsuits, meaning Saudi Arabia couldn't be named as a defendant in the long-running case, the AP reports. Daniels said allowing new evidence would be "futile" because "the additional allegations do not strip defendants of sovereign immunity," reports Reuters.
The lawsuit, which seeks billions of dollars in damages began in 2002. Saudi Arabia was removed as a defendant in 2005 because of sovereign immunity, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it in 2013, pointing to a similar case involving Afghanistan, Reuters notes. A lawyer for the plaintiffs says an appeal is planned and blames the ruling on the government's decision to keep material that could help the plaintiffs' cause classified, the AP reports. A lawyer for Saudi Arabia says the case is based on "innuendo and supposition," reports the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the number of defendants being sued used to be in the hundreds but now stands at around a dozen. (Pope Francis prayed at the 9/11 Memorial during his US visit.)