Iran threatens to take US to tribunal over terror payout ruling

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( – Iran says it will take the United States to the International Court of Justice if almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian funds are used to pay out the families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Monday the diversion of the funds would amount to misappropriation, and that he had made Iran’s view clear to Secretary of State John Kerry. The two held two meetings in New York last week.

“We have announced since the beginning that [the] Iranian government does not recognize the U.S. extra-territorial law and considers the U.S. court ruling to blockade Iranian funds null and void and in gross violation of the international law,” the IRNA state news agency quoted Zarif as saying.

He said Iran holds the U.S. government responsible for preserving the funds.

“If they are plundered, we will lodge a complaint with the ICJ for reparation.”

Zarif also announced that the regime is setting up a committee to investigate the case, prevent any repeat, and ensure that the funds are not taken.

The Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision last week ruled in favor of the victims of Iran-sponsored terror attacks, including the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

The majority held that Congress had not exceeded its authority in passing legislation in 2012 specifically designed to secure restitution for the victims and families from Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi. The funds are frozen in the U.S.

On October 23, 1983, 241 Americans were killed in a suicide bombing at the Marine barracks in the Lebanese capital, blamed on Iran’s proxy Hezbollah. It was the biggest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.

Nineteen U.S. military personnel were killed in the June 25, 1996 truck bombing at the Khobar Towers, an eight-story housing complex near Dhahran. According to a 2001 federal grand jury indictment that highlighted Iran’s role in the bomb plot, another 372 Americans were wounded.

Zarif in his reported comments did not speak to the charges of Iranian involvement, although he noted that similar verdicts have been handed down previously, adding that “the most ludicrous case was implicating Iran in the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, which was totally politically loaded.”

Family members and estates of the Beirut bombing victims filed suit against Iran in 2001, and in 2007 a federal district court awarded relief to more than 1,000 American victims.

As families sought to get the funds from Bank Markazi, Congress passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, whose provisions made certain Iranian assets frozen in the U.S. subject to attachment to satisfy damages judgments in terror cases. The legislation made specific reference to the district court case.

Bank Markazi challenged the relevant section in the legislation, arguing that it violated separation of powers principles. A district court in 2013 rejected that argument, and the Court of Appeals Second Circuit the following year upheld the district court ruling – an outcome affirmed by last Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.

Asked about Iran’s threat to take the case to the ICJ, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday the administration supported the high court ruling.

“The decision by the court marries very closely with our own statements when the legislation was passed back in 2012, and we’re supportive of the court’s decision,” he said.

“As for what Iran may or may not do, they can speak to that, but we stand by our position with respect to the kinds of suffering that American families in the past have suffered as a result of terrorism supported by Tehran in the past,” Kirby added.

— Written by Patrick Goodenough