NEW YORK, May 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys representing families of 9/11 victims today are informing a federal court in Manhattan that they are filing comprehensive evidence that Iran played a key role in planning and facilitating the 9/11 attacks and called on the U.S. Government to declassify documents detailing what the U.S. intelligence community knew about Iran's relationship to al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001. "Today, nearly a decade after the attacks that took so many of our loved ones away, we believe the 9/11 families and the American people deserve to know the full truth about Iran's complicity," said Thomas E. Mellon, Jr. of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, law firm of Mellon Webster & Shelly, the lead attorney in Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., now pending in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
"We simply want to make sure that those who are responsible for assisting the September 11 terrorists in their attack on the United States are found accountable for the harm they caused," said Fiona Havlish whose husband, Donald, perished on the 101st floor of the North Tower.
Representing eight law firms from across the United States, the attorneys and their team of investigators have turned up convincing evidence that Imad Mughniyah was the main liaison between Iran's leadership and al Qaeda and that Mughniyah played an active role in planning the 9/11 attacks. Mughniyah, a Lebanese Shiite, was a top commander in Hezbollah, the terrorist organization created and supported by Iran since the early 1980s. Mughniyah was assassinated on February 14, 2008, in Damascus, Syria.
"Our experts, including three former 9/11 Commission staff members, have stated that the evidence is 'clear and convincing' that the Islamic Republic of Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks," said Timothy B. Fleming, the lead investigative attorney in the case, of the D.C. office of the firm Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis.
"The 9/11 Commission called for further investigation by the U.S. Government into the al Qaeda-Iran-Hezbollah relationship, but until now there's been no indication that any government agency has taken any action to pursue this matter," said Mellon. "Through interviews with former U.S. Government and intelligence officials, members of the 9/11 Commission staff, former Iranian intelligence officers, and a wide variety of non-governmental experts and fact witnesses, we have undertaken this 'further investigation,'" Mellon added.
Before 9/11, the FBI considered Mughniyah to be the world's most wanted terrorist.
The United States Government has accused Mughniyah of masterminding the April 1983 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, that killed 63 people; the October 1983 simultaneous attacks on the U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers; and the kidnapping and murder of numerous U.S. hostages in Lebanon, including the CIA's Beirut station chief William Buckley and U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel Richard Higgins.
Mughniyah was also wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, and by INTERPOL for his role in the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy, and the July 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish community center, both in Buenos Aires.
Today, the Havlish attorneys disclosed that they have taken sworn testimony, which will be filed under seal, from former Iranian intelligence operatives describing the direct participation of Imad Mughniyah and top government officials of Iran in the planning of, and preparation for, the 9/11 attacks. These witnesses also describe the roles of Mughniyah and top Iranian officials in assisting al Qaeda leadership and operatives to escape from Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in the wake of 9/11. Iran then provided safe haven and support for these al Qaeda members inside Iran.
"The 9/11 Commission discovered, just days before publication of its report, important U.S. intelligence documents that detailed Iran's involvement in aiding and abetting the 9/11 plot," Mellon pointed out.
On page 240 of its final report, the 9/11 Commission stated that "a senior Hezbollah operative visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate activities there," and that this "senior Hezbollah operative" and his associate were on the same air flights as several of the future hijackers who were traveling to and from Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.
"We have compelling evidence that the 'senior Hezbollah operative' was Imad Mughniyah," added Dennis G. Pantazis, of the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis.
"Imad Mughniyah was known to be an agent of Iran, running terrorist operations for Iran and Hezbollah. Mughniyah's participation in the hijackers' preparations for the 9/11 attacks leaves no doubt that Iran was directly involved in, and had foreknowledge of, a planned terrorist attack on the U.S.," Mellon said. "Discoveries about Mughniyah's role are very important because, as found by the 9/11 Commission, 'after 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda,'" Fleming added.
The Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has already entered a default against the Iranian government defendants, and the Havlish Plaintiffs now ask the Court, based on all the evidence, to enter judgment against Iran.
The case appears as In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, Civil Action No. 03 MDL 1570 (GBD): Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., Civil Action No. 03-CV-9848 (GBD). Over the past nine years, the eight law firms of the Havlish consortium have invested thousands of hours of time to investigate Iran's involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
"When Tim Fleming and I joined this coalition of attorneys representing the 9/11 families, our immediate and ultimate goal was to provide the families with a full accounting of what happened, how it happened, and who was responsible for that terrible day in September 2001," said Pantazis.
"Developing evidence of Iran's involvement with al Qaeda regarding the events of 9/11 is like putting together a large jigsaw puzzle where many of the pieces are missing and will never be found. Still, the picture is clear that Iran's and Hezbollah's complicity cannot be seriously challenged," said Mellon. "Over the last nine years, after interviewing dozens of people, reviewing hundreds of documents, and consulting with many experts in the field, we have developed a strong evidentiary case of Iran's involvement in the 9/11 attacks," Mellon added.
"These families have waited nearly ten years to hear the truth. Under the scrutiny of a federal Judge, hopefully this will be accomplished in the next few months," Pantazis said.
Ellen Saracini, the widow of Victor Saracini, Captain of United Flight 175, which was the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center, stated, "The September 11 attacks were an attack on the American way of life and on the American belief in a civil society where we respect others and resolve our differences in an orderly and peaceful way. It is only appropriate that those who are attacking our way of life are found accountable in our American system."
Attorneys in the case, as well as leading Plaintiff Ellen Saracini, and others, are available for interviews.
SOURCE Mellon Webster & Shelly