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Government says national security might be at stake in lawsuit over ownership of luxury condos downtown and in the Back Bay

The Department of Justice is asking a federal judge in Boston to delay any action in a suit by a company owned by the Saudi government to take control of eight Boston condos purchased by a Saudi who used to run one of his government's anti-terrorism efforts but who backed the wrong prince in a Riyadh power struggle.

The Saudi company had originally filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court seeking enforcement of an order by an Ontario court giving it ownership of condos on the 52nd floor of One Dalton Place and at the Mandarin Oriental and Millennium Place.

Saad Khalid Aljabri, who owns and rents out the units, then "removed" the case to federal court, saying that his defense would require discussing some of the more sensitive matters involved in joint US/Saudi anti-terrorism programs.

That got the attention of the Department of Justice, which is now asking US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton to give it until Aug. 10 to figure out if Aljabri is bluffing or not and whether the government might seek to intervene or otherwise move to block the release of potentially embarrassing or sensitive information. Justice Department attorneys told the judge they'd be willing to share information in private with him to help him decide whether to postpone any action in the case.

In its formal request, the Justice Department said it's not taking a position on either side's case, but:

Faced with both Defendants' allegations and the United States' historic relationship with the Saudi government, as well as the need to consult with recently confirmed senior officials in departments and agencies that may have an interest in the position to be taken by the U.S. Government, the Government needs additional time to carefully assess what, if any, actions are necessary to protect overall U.S. Government interests. Matters involving the foreign relations and national security of the United States, such as those that may be implicated by this case, necessarily require "delicate" and "complex" judgments by senior officials of the Executive Branch.

The most immediate issue for Gorton is whether to send the whole case back to Suffolk Superior Court - a request made by the Saudi company. The company says it didn't file a full-blown lawsuit, just enforcement of a Canadian court order, so it's unlikely any national-security matters would even come up. Also, the company argues, the case has nothing to do with issues that belong in federal court.

Defendants speculate about federal foreign policy and national security implications of fact issues that may or may not arise during the course of this case - even assuming it were going to be litigated here - but they have not shown an actual disputed question of federal law that must be decided in order to resolve the state-law claims at issue in this case. Defendants thus have failed to meet their substantial burden of proving that removal is proper.

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Comments

Sounds like a lot here-to-fors with forthwiths and fifthwiths thrown in for good measure.

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