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US effort to seize $2 billion of Iran’s assets for Beirut bombing is illegal

Iran's Bank
Iran’s Central Bank building in northern Tehran (Photo by IRNA).

A senior official with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) says US efforts to seize $1.6 billion of Iran’s assets in Luxembourg run counter to the international laws and will bear no fruit.

CBI Legal Chief Executive Ardeshir Fereydouni made the remarks on Tuesday in reaction to a Monday report by the New York Times about a confidential court ruling by a Luxembourg court to freeze $1.6 of CBI assets in a financial institution in the European country.

According to informed sources, the Luxembourg court ordered the freezing of the CBI assets after a group of terror attack victims, who had won a default judgment against Iran in the US, filed a lawsuit at the European court to try to enforce it, the report said.

The US Supreme Court has ruled against Iran’s central bank, clearing the way for nearly $2 billion in frozen assets to be  turned over to Americans, whose relatives were victims of terror attacks.

The high court ruled 6-2 in favor of over 1,000 loved ones of the 241 U.S. service members who died in the 1983 Marine barracks Beirut bombing and victims of other attacks linked to Iran, the Marine Corps Times reported.

In 2011, the group had persuaded a federal judge in New York, George B. Daniels, to find that Iran had provided assistance to al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks, an allegation vehemently dismissed by the Islamic Republic. In 2012, the judge ordered Iran to pay the victims two billion dollars in compensatory damages and five billion dollars in punitive damages.

That judgment stagnated for years, as there was no obvious financial source to collect it. However, after the nuclear sanctions against Iran were lifted, the group referred the case to the Luxembourg court as it came to light that the Clearstream system in Luxembourg, which facilitates international exchanges of securities, was holding $1.6 billion in CBI assets.

The file photo shows the office of Clearstream in Kirchberg, Luxembourg, which facilitates international exchanges of securities.

“The issue of freezing [CBI assets] does not mean the withdrawal [of money] from the mentioned account and assets. The Luxembourg court is now studying the case and trying to find out whether the ruling issued by the US court can be recognized and enforced in Luxembourg,” Fereydouni said.

The CBI attorneys have submitted Iran’s defense with regard to the case. The country has also lodged a complaint against the US at the International Court of Justice, urging the international body to declare the issued verdicts as illegal and compel the US to end its anti-Iran measures, he added.

Iran has also claimed damages with regard to the previous cases in which the US had issued unjust rulings against the country, the CBI official pointed out.

Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian deputy foreign minister Majid Takht Ravanchi described the freezing of CBI assets in Luxembourg as part of an anti-Iran campaign and noted, “Some people acting against Iran have tried to broaden [the scope of] a ruling that was delivered in the US, which we consider totally unjust and baseless, to outside the country [the US].”

In a similar case in April, the US Supreme Court issued an order authorizing the transfer of around two billion dollars of frozen Iranian assets to the families of the victims of a 1983 bombing in Beirut, which targeted a barracks in the Lebanese capital, and other attacks blamed on Iran.

The assets belong to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which have been blocked under US sanctions.

Iran has denied any role in the attack and strongly criticized the US move.

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