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Supreme Court Allows Victims of Iranian Terror to Collect $2 Billion in Frozen Assets

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a 2012 law that allows American victims of terrorism to collect damages from $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

The 6 – 2 decision is a legal victory for 1,300 people who were seeking the funds from Iran’s central bank, also known as Bank Markazi. The assets were initially held in a CitiBank account and later transferred to a trust account awaiting the outcome of the case. The claimants against Iran include victims of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut and of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and their families.

“We are extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which will bring long-overdue relief to more than 1,000 victims of Iranian terrorism and their families, many of whom have waited decades for redress,” said Theodore Olson, who represented the victims before the Supreme Court.

Jeff Lamken, who argued on behalf of Bank Markazi, did not respond to requests for comment.

In her opinion for the majority, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that “Congress may indeed direct courts to apply newly enacted, outcome-altering legislation in pending civil cases.” Chief Justice John Roberts, in the minority opinion, held that Congress overstepped its bounds and dictated an outcome that should have been decided by the judiciary.

Matthew D. McGill, a lawyer for the victims, said that Supreme Court decision “removes the last remaining legal impediment” to releasing the money, and that the next step is to request the distribution of the funds to the victims and their families.

A New York court ordered Iran to pay more than $10 billion to victims of the 9/11 terror attacks last month.

The Supreme Court decision (.pdf) referred to the “evidence-based judgments against Iran together amounting to billions of dollars” in the cases covered by the lawsuit. News items in recent years have also drawn attention to Iran’s role in anti-American terror. It was established that Ahmed al-Mughassil, who was arrested last year for masterminding the Khobar Towers attack, was trained in Iran. Intelligence has also implicated Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s current defense minister, in the Marine barracks bombing.

[Photo: Mark Fischer / Flickr ]