A federal judge in New York ordered Iran's central bank (Bank Markazi) and a European intermediary on Wednesday to pay out $1.68 billion to family members of troops killed in the 1983 car bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.
US District Judge Loretta Preska said a 2019 federal law stripped Bank Markazi, the Iran central bank, of sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, which sought to enforce a judgment against Iran for providing material support to the attackers, according to Reuters.
The Oct. 23, 1983, bombing at the Marine Corps barracks killed 241 US service members.
Victims and their families won a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran in federal court in 2007 over the attack.
Six years later, they sought to seize bond proceeds allegedly owned by Bank Markazi and processed by Clearstream to partially satisfy the court judgment.
Clearstream Banking SA is based in Luxembourg and is parent to the company Deutsche Boerse AG.
Iran’s Bank Markazi has argued that the lawsuit was not allowed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which generally shields foreign governments from liability in US courts.
Preska said the 2019 law authorizes US courts to allow the seizure of assets held outside the country to satisfy judgments against Iran in terrorism cases, "notwithstanding" other laws such as FSIA that would grant immunity.
A Luxembourg court in 2021 ordered Clearstream not to move the funds until a court in that country recognizes the US ruling. Clearstream has appealed that decision.
In January 2020, the US Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in the families' favor, and ordered the case to be reconsidered in light of the new law, adopted a month earlier as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
A US Supreme Court ruling in April 2016 referred to three cases, including the American families of people killed in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, the 1996 Khobar Towers truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US service members and the 2001 bombing of Sbarro Pizza Restaurant in Jerusalem.
In 2018, Iran filed a lawsuit with the Hague-based ICJ against the United States based on the Treaty of Amity signed between the two sides on 15 August 1955, seeking to have sanctions against Tehran lifted.
The United States had tried to argue that Iran could not base claims at the World Court on a 1955 bilateral friendship pact. However judges found the treaty, signed decades before Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the sharp deterioration in ties with Washington, could be used as a basis for the court’s jurisdiction.