​US Supreme Court blocks Hamas bomb victims’ claim to Iran artifacts
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​US Supreme Court blocks Hamas bomb victims’ claim to Iran artifacts

Judges rule five US citizens maimed in 1997 Jerusalem bombing can't use Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to seize items from Chicago museum

The Robert and Deborah Aliber Persian Gallery at the University of Chicago. (screen capture: Oriental Museum Virtual Tour, University of Chicago)
The Robert and Deborah Aliber Persian Gallery at the University of Chicago. (screen capture: Oriental Museum Virtual Tour, University of Chicago)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The US Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack in Israel from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against US victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims’ case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries’ property in the US but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The case stems from a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in September 4, 1997 that was carried out by three Hamas suicide bombers, killing five Israelis.

An Israeli man carries an injured woman from the scene of a triple Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997. (photo credit: Flash90)
An Israeli man carries an injured woman from the scene of a triple Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997. (Flash90)

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, won a $71.5 million civil judgment against Iran because it provided material support and training to Hamas.

Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archaeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university’s Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.

Other items, including some at the Field Museum of National History in Chicago, were part of the case at an earlier stage.

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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