The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether Congress exceeded its powers when it passed a law allowing victims of terrorism to seize nearly $2 billion belonging to Iran's central bank.
More than 1,000 victims of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East sponsored by Iran sued the Iranian government and won their cases. Among them were family members of 241 Marines killed in a 1983 barracks bombing in Lebanon.
The attack was blamed on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia backed by Iran.
Because Iran refused to pay, the victims asked a federal court to let them seize Iranian assets held by Bank Markazi in New York that were frozen by the Obama administration.
Normally, those assets would be beyond the reach of the victims, but they asked Congress to pass a law allowing them to seize the Iranian bank's money. Congress complied in 2012.
Iran claims that Congress unconstitutionally directed the courts to reach a certain outcome, violating the separation of powers and international treaties. The victims say in response that Congress left the outcome of the case to federal judges.
The Obama Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court not to take the case and to leave lower court rulings, in favor of the victims, intact.
The case was among 13 accepted for review in the court's new term that begins next Monday.