US court: 1997 Jerusalem attack survivors can collect damages from Iran

Ten terrorist attack victims who won financial claims against Iran can seize a $2.8 million judgment owed to that country’s defense ministry, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the seizure would not violate agreements between Iran and the United States to resolve the Iran hostage crisis. The court also said the money, which has grown to more than $9.4 million with interest and attorneys’ fees, was among assets that had been frozen by an executive order.

A call to an attorney who represented Iran’s defense ministry was not immediately returned.

The victims include survivors of a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem. A lower court judge determined that Iran provided training and other material assistance to the terrorists and ordered Iran to pay the victims damages ranging from $2.5 million to $15 million, according to the 9th Circuit ruling.

Another victim is the son of former Iranian prime minister Shapoir Bakhtiar, who opposed Iran’s Islamic regime and was murdered at his home in France in 1991.

Iran won the $2.8 million judgment in 1997 against an American defense company that had agreed to sell it an air combat system. The sale, however, was disrupted by the 1979 Iranian revolution, and Iran sought reimbursement.

The 9th Circuit has previously ruled that a separate group of terrorist attack victims who won financial judgments against Iran could go after $17 million owed to an Iranian bank.