Ontario Ruling Imperils Ottawa Outreach to Tehran

Ontario Ruling Imperils Ottawa Outreach to Tehran  Ontario Ruling Imperils Ottawa Outreach to Tehran

An Ontario court decision that holds Iran financially accountable for its alleged role in some terrorist attacks is threatening to complicate Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's attempts to mend diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic, the National Post commented in an article published on Tuesday.    

Iran reacted angrily over the weekend to the judge's ruling and seemed to make the resumption of diplomatic relations conditional on overturning it, something Ottawa is unlikely to consider.

"The move by the Canadian government contradicts claims about the normalization of relations between the two countries and compensation for the extremist policies of the country's former government," the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Hossein Jaberi Ansari called the decision by Ontario's Superior Court of Justice a "political ruling" and "a new step in the direction of the hostile policies of the former extremist government of Canada, which was felled by popular vote."

***Revision of Policies Essential

"Any normalization in the two countries' diplomatic ties requires a radical revision of the extremist and wrong politics of the former Canadian government, such as the violation of Iran's judicial immunity," the Mehr News Agency quoted Jaberi Ansari as saying.

The berating came after Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion confirmed Friday talks "at the official level" had begun with Iran on restoring diplomatic relations, four years after they were severed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, a close friend and ally of the ultra-rightist Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Conservatives had cited fake concerns over security of their embassy in Tehran as well as a long list of grievances, such as Iran's support for the Syrian government and its nuclear energy program.

At the same time, Ottawa listed Iran "a state sponsor of terrorism." The listing lifted Iran's state immunity under Canadian law, opening it to civil suits brought by victims of alleged attacks by Iranian-backed groups.

Five court proceedings were subsequently launched in Ontario by victims of eight Hamas and Hezbollah attacks. They sought enforcement of a dozen US judgments against Iran.

Among those seeking damages were the parents of Marla Bennett, 24, who was at the Hebrew University cafeteria in Beit-ul-Moqaddas (Jerusalem) when a suicide bomber struck on July 31, 2002. They won a $13-million wrongful death suit against Iran in the US and came to Toronto to collect on the country's assets.

Last Thursday, Justice Glenn Hainey upheld the judgments, awarding millions worth of Iranian non-diplomatic properties and bank accounts in Toronto and Ottawa to the victims. Ottawa intervened in the case to protect Iran's diplomatic assets.

But the court ruling coupled with Dion's reluctance to remove Iran from Canada's list of state sponsors of terrorism has angered Tehran.