US Efforts to Seize CBI Assets Illegal

US Efforts to Seize  CBI Assets IllegalUS Efforts to Seize  CBI Assets Illegal

The Foreign Ministry has challenged the legality of the case filed against the Central Bank of Iran in the United States to claim restitution for victims of terror attacks allegedly linked to the Iranian government.

“The case against Iran, which has long been ongoing in various US courts, is against established principles of international law and lacks legal standing,” IRNA quoted the ministry’s spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari, as saying on Thursday.

The attacks mentioned in the case include the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.             

The US Supreme Court took up the case on Oct. 1 upon the request of CBI after other lower US courts had found Iran culpable for the attacks and ordered it to pay damages to over 1,300 American plaintiffs, some victims of attacks and other family members of such victims.

Iran has consistently denied the charges as baseless, refusing to abide by the US judicial system’s calls for it to pay billions of dollars in awarded damages.

The US administration and Congress have filed separate briefs urging the Supreme Court not to overturn the decisions of the circuit and appeals courts, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The congressional measure, known as the amicus brief, was filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a committee that oversees such matters made up of the US House leaders of both parties.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, CBI says Congress should not be able to pass a law intended to change the outcome of a particular court case and accuses it of doing so in its 2012 legislation.

Alongside US President Barack Obama’s executive order issued in 2012 to block all of CBI’s assets held in the US, the Congress passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, which included a provision that made it easier for the victims to be paid out of the blocked assets.

The bank has asked US federal courts to decide whether that violates the constitutional separation of powers.

In the brief, the House has not denied it changed the law.

 Independent Institution

A CBI source told Financial Tribune the bank, as an independent institution, cannot be targeted for alleged charges against Iran’s government.

Tehran holds the US administration responsible should the assets of its institutions or nationals be “misappropriated”, Ansari said, adding that the case “has nothing to do” with the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the United States and five other powers on July 14.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran would use any legal means to restore its rights,” he added.

The accord will give Iran sanctions relief, including the unfreezing of Iranian assets in overseas accounts, in return for temporary limitations on its nuclear program.

The deal marked an apparent thaw in Tehran-Washington diplomatic relations, which have been strained for about 36 years after a group of Iranian students stormed the US Embassy and held 52 American staff hostage for 444 years and one who was released earlier because of illness.

 Restitution for Embassy Hostages

In another development, the New York Times said US lawmakers included a provision in the huge spending bill Obama signed into law on Dec. 18, requiring the 53 hostages to be paid financial compensation.

Under the provision, each hostage or their families is entitled to as much as $4.4 million.

The very agreement between the then governments of Iran and the US leading to the hostages’ release in 1981 barred them from seeking restitution.

Their legal claims were repeatedly blocked in the courts, including an appeal denied by the Supreme Court. Congress tried but failed to pass laws granting them relief.

But this year, vindication came in a decision that forced the Paris-based bank BNP Paribas to pay a $9 billion penalty for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba. Some of that money was suddenly available for payment to the hostages.

It is not clear whether all of them or their families will receive full payments.

The law authorizes payments of up to $10,000 per day of captivity for each of the 53 hostages, 37 of whom are still alive.

Initial payments, expected to fall well short of the maximum, are to be disbursed within one year, according to a formula that will be overseen by a special master appointed by the US Justice Department.