US Supreme Court: Iran owes $2b to terror victims’ families
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US Supreme Court: Iran owes $2b to terror victims’ families

Claimants, including relatives of 241 Marines slain in 1983 Beirut attack, will be able to demand compensation from Iranian central bank

American ex-president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, view the caskets of American diplomats killed in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. (Courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)
American ex-president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, view the caskets of American diplomats killed in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. (Courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a judgment allowing families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism to collect nearly $2 billion.

The court on Wednesday ruled 6-2 in favor of relatives of the 241 Marines who died in a 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut and victims of other attacks that courts have linked to Iran.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the judges, which rejected efforts by Iran’s central bank to try to stave off court orders that would allow the relatives to be paid out for their losses.

Iran’s Bank Markazi complained that Congress was intruding into the business of federal courts when it passed a 2012 law that specifically directs that the bank’s assets in the United States be turned over to the families.

The law, Ginsburg wrote, “does not transgress restraints placed on Congress and the president by the Constitution.”

A view of the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, after a terrorist bombing that killed 63 people on April 18, 1983 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/US Army)
A view of the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, after a terrorist bombing that killed 63 people on April 18, 1983 (Wikimedia Commons/US Army)

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. “The authority of the political branches is sufficient; they have no need to seize ours,” Roberts wrote.

More than 1,300 people are among the relatives of the victims of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 service members, and other attacks that were carried out by groups with links to Iran. The lead plaintiff is Deborah Peterson, whose brother, Lance Cpl. James C. Knipple, was killed in Beirut.

Congress has repeatedly changed the law in the past 20 years to make it easier for victims to sue over state-sponsored terrorism; federal courts have ruled for the victims. But Iran has refused to comply with the judgments, leading lawyers to hunt for Iranian assets in the United States.

Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress, as well as the Obama administration, supported the families in the case.

The case is Bank Markazi v. Peterson, 14-770.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in a statement on Wednesday praised the court for making the “right decision.”

“Families of Iranian terror victims have had to wait far too long to recoup these payments. While we can only provide so much comfort to those who grieve, I hope this ruling will help bring justice,” he said.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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