Economy, Business And Markets

Iran in Ontario Court to Defend Assets

Iran in Ontario Court to Defend AssetsIran in Ontario Court to Defend Assets

Iran has sent lawyers to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Monday to fight attempts to hold the country to account for allegedly sponsoring attacks that harmed Canadian citizens.

Faced with the prospect of losing two Ontario properties and bank accounts worth $2.6 million to victims of terrorism, Iran argued it was protected from civil suits by state immunity and that what it owns enjoys diplomatic immunity, the National Post reported.

The dispute comes as the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated it wants to reestablish diplomatic ties with Iran that were severed by the Conservatives in 2012.

But Colin Stevenson, one of the Toronto lawyers representing the Iranian government in the case, spent the day arguing that the five claims for Tehran’s Canadian assets should be set aside and that the amounts sought by the victims were “offensive.”

Noting that some of the cases were based on alleged torture suffered by victims who had been held captive by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Stevenson said torture was not considered terrorism under Canadian law. “Torture is not terrorist activity,” he said.

The Iranian Embassy and official residence were not included among the assets because they were deemed diplomatic property. Iran publicly condemned the court action at the time but did not defend itself in court until Monday’s appearance.

The lawyers representing Iran argued that the cases had not been filed in time, that a York University professor who testified was biased against the Iranian government, and that the Canadian government had not given Iran sufficient notice that it was suspending diplomatic ties.

In addition, the lawyers argued the bank accounts that victims are seeking were used to pay the tuition and expenses of Iranian students in Canada. As such, they should be considered diplomatic assets and out of reach of the civil courts, they said.