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In what is believed to be the first lawsuit stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center, the widow of a man who died when the north tower collapsed has sued Osama bin Laden, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and its ruling Taliban leadership. In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiff, identified only as “Jane Doe,” seeks recovery for the loss of her husband, who was working at his job in the financial industry at One World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower. The husband, identified as T.S., was able to make it to the roof with a co-worker, where he called his wife on a cell phone to say that he and the co-worker were awaiting rescue by helicopter. The widow, of New Jersey, is now pregnant with her fifth child. “She had a young husband with a brilliant future ahead of him and now it’s economic chaos for them, which is probably a lot less than the deep grief this woman faces and is facing raising five fatherless children,” said attorney James E. Beasley, of Beasley, Casey & Erbstein in Philadelphia. Beasley claimed that his suit does not breach a moratorium on litigation urged in the wake of the attacks by the American Trial Lawyers Association. “I got that e-mail that went around,” Beasley said in a phone interview. “It’s a moratorium on airline suits. Bin Laden, the Taliban — these suckers are not entitled to a moratorium.” The ATLA did not set a specific date for the ending of the moratorium, but some lawyers said privately that at least one month should pass before suits are filed. The suit filed by Beasley has five counts: wrongful death; survival; assault, battery and false imprisonment; negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress; and racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Beasley is a well-known plaintiffs’ lawyer. After he made a generous donation recently to Temple University’s law school, the Philadelphia school was renamed James E. Beasley School of Law. He represented the family of Holly Maddox in a civil suit against then-fugitive Ira Einhorn in Philadelphia, who is accused of murdering Maddox. The jury in the case awarded the Maddox family $907 million. “This case is worth three times that,” Beasley said. Beasley also said he had no doubt that he will recover money for the family of T.S. “If I get a judgment, and I will, the president has provided for their assets to be frozen and, if they are frozen in this country, they can be subject to that judgment,” he said. ACTS OF TERRORISM The suit charges that the Taliban “willfully engaged in acts of terrorism, murder, mayhem and/or” provided material support for the hijacking of two airplanes that struck the towers and caused their collapse. It also says that the Taliban is a foreign government that provides support for bin Laden and the terrorist group al-Qaeda and were “outside the scope of immunity provided by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.” Normally, the government of Afghanistan would be immune from suit by U.S. citizens. But the Taliban is not recognized as a legitimate government by the United Nations, and Beasley said that executive orders have been signed by President Clinton and President Bush “wherein they talk about this being a terrorist state and they lose their immunity.” The suit details bin Laden’s 1998 “fatwah” or religious decree, in which he said all Muslims have an individual duty to “kill Americans and their allies.” It recites a litany of terrorist attacks against the United States and abroad. It also states that the Taliban were an integral part of the scheme to hijack the planes and fly them into the World Trade Center. Addressing the decision of Jane Doe to seek compensation in court for the loss of her husband, Beasley said, “If I were to speak for her I would probably say her grief is overwhelming and that whatever can be done to see that there is true justice for herself and her children should be done. And that’s the road she is now following.” The suit, Doe v. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, 01 CIV. 9074, was assigned to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

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