A controversial new American law that allows survivors of terror attacks and victims' relatives to sue foreign governments was passed last week, paving the way for new debate on whether individuals can sue foreign governments in their countries and what would be the consequences. The victims of the failed 15 July coup attempt which was masterminded by Fethullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania with a green card, have said that they may also consider suing the U.S. government if a similar law is prepared by Turkey.
On Sept. 29, the U.S. Congress overrode President Barack Obama's veto of the legislation, known as Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The new law is expected to open the way for Saudi Arabia to be targeted for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.
Saudi Arabia firmly denies it had anything to do with the Sept. 11 tragedy, and warned that the new law will cause "disastrous consequences" for relations between the allies.
Apart from the kingdom, numerous other politicians and governments argued that the law is not compatible with international law, including the American president himself. Obama has criticized the fact that the bill would open U.S. military personnel and officials to lawsuits from foreign governments.
Before the law passed, on Sept. 21 the European Union delegation to the United States called on President Obama "to act in order to prevent the JASTA bill from becoming law," and said that they were concerned about the measure's effect on foreign sovereign immunity. Also, French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Romain Nadal said French and European countries consider JASTA as contravening international law.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the law and said: "It's against the principle of individual criminal responsibility for crimes. We expect this false step to be reversed as soon as possible."
The decision also started a new debate in Turkey, as voices of the victims of the failed 15 July coup attempt, seen as a terrorist act by the Turkish government, were raised on whether they can sue the U.S. if a similar bill were to pass in the Turkish parliament.
"Fetullah Gülen, the mastermind of the coup attempt on July 15, is the state enemy in Turkey because of his activities and long-running campaign to overthrow a democratically elected government; and one of the top figures on Turkey's most-wanted terrorists list. So there is no reason for us to not sue the U.S. government for the same reason their citizens will sue Saudi Arabia," said Zeynep Bayramoğlu, a journalist and deputy director of the July 15 Foundation, established to support sufferers and relatives of the coup attempt's victims. Bayramoğlu said that the coup attempt undoubtedly was a terrorist act against the Turkish state and its citizens, and its leader Gülen, is a green card holder, was given references by two former CIA officers, Graham Fuller and George Fidas, for his green card application in 2007. "Fetullah Gülen lives in Pennsylvania and has been protected by the U.S. I guess this situation constitutes the same crime that is pointed out in the U.S.'s law," said Bayramoğlu.
Meanwhile, a lobbyist group named Arab Project in Iraq is applying pressure to the country's parliament to ask for U.S. compensation for the Iraqi war by taking JASTA into account, Al-Arabiya reported on Saturday.
"Surely, we will sue U.S. government if our government prepares a similar bill because FETÖ is the terrorist organization," said Fatih Öztürk, a victim of failed 15 July coup attempt, whose foot was wounded by a bullet of putschist soldiers on the Bosporus Bridge.
Another victim, Taha Kurt, a student wounded on the bridge, said that he can also act against U.S. government, who is harboring Gülen. "I am following the recent news regarding the bill. If Turkey takes action, I can appeal to the court against the U.S.," Kurt said.
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 29 to approve legislation that will allow the families of those killed in the 2001 attacks on the United States to seek damages from the Saudi government. Riyadh has always dismissed suspicions that it backed the attackers, who killed nearly 3,000 people under the banner of militant group al-Qaida. Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
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