South Africa’s telecommunication giant MTN has asked a United States court to terminate the case filed against it on December 27, 2019, asserting claims for civil monetary relief under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.
On 27 December 2019 a complaint for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the “Complaint”). The Complaint was filed on behalf of American service members and civilians who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017, and on behalf of their families.
The Complaint alleges that several Western businesses supported the Taliban by, inter alia, making payments to ensure the protection of their infrastructure. The defendants named in the Complaint are six different groups of affiliated companies, one of which is MTN Group and certain of its subsidiary companies, including MTN Afghanistan.
In the formal written document submitted to the U.S. court by MTN’s legal counsel, MTN requested the court to end the lawsuit and grant a judgment in MTN’s favor for two independent reasons: because the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Under U.S. law and procedures, MTN is not permitted at this stage of the lawsuit to challenge or contest the factual allegations made against the company, so the motion to dismiss focuses on the lack of jurisdiction and the legal insufficiency of the claims.
In a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC, MTN said it has “deep sympathy for those who have been injured or lost loved ones as a result of the tragic conflict in Afghanistan.” However, “the MTN Defendants are not the extremists that caused Plaintiffs’ tragic losses and injuries. To the contrary, MTN Afghanistan has been lauded by the World Bank for expanding telecommunications services to the impoverished people of Afghanistan and has itself been a target of violence in the devastating conflict in that war-torn country. Put simply, Plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendants in the wrong court based on insufficient allegations.”
MTN said it remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and, as reflected in the motion to dismiss, intends to defend its position accordingly.