TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Saturday rejected a U.S. federal judge’s ruling that the Islamic Republic must pay $2.65 billion to the families of the 241 U.S. service members killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth described his ruling on Friday as the largest-ever such judgment by an American court against another country.
Iran has been blamed for supporting the militant group Hezbollah, which carried out the suicide bombing in Beirut. It was the worst terrorist act against U.S. targets until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The American judge’s ruling is baseless,” the official IRNA news agency quoted government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham as saying. “Americans have taken repeated measures contrary to legal principles. ... This ruling against Iran is politically motivated and the result of pressures.”
Collecting money won’t be easy
Friday’s ruling by the American judge allows nearly 1,000 family members and a handful of survivors to try to collect Iranian assets from various sources around the world. Finding and seizing that money will be difficult, however.
Iran has denied responsibility for the attack. It did not respond to the 6-year-old lawsuit and was represented only by an empty table in the U.S. federal courtroom.
On Saturday, Elham said a U.S. court was not in the position to issue such a ruling.
“Some U.S. courts, without listening to the other side’s views and due to its unjustifiable and irrational links, issue verdicts against Iran that are not legally defendable,” Elham was quoted by IRNA as saying.
Elham said Iran’s presidency was pursuing the case and hinted that Iranian courts were open to hearing cases against the U.S. for harming Iranians over the decades. He did not elaborate.
The American families are backing a law in Congress that would make it easier for terrorism victims and their families to collect compensation money.
They were encouraged by Libya’s decision to accept responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Scotland. The country, once a pariah, agreed to compensate the families of the 270 victims in a deal that was a step toward international acceptance.
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