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August 5, 2016
The Obama administration decision to release over $100 billion in sanctions relief as part of the Iran nuclear deal is being challenged by a group of American victims of Iranian terror, who have more than a billion dollars in court judgments against the Islamic regime.
The US has promised to unfreeze funds largely held in overseas bank accounts back to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). However, the families are enjoining against the sanctions relief, arguing that unfreezing the funds will prevent them from ever being able to collect on the judgments in their cases against Iran.
No less than 24 plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the sanctions relief on Wednesday at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The US State Department, Treasury Department, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew are all listed as respondents in the suit, which was filed by attorneys Robert Tolchin of New York and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Israel, head of the NGO Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center).
The families have been awarded judgments for a series of terror attacks funded by Iran, the leading state sponsor of terror. Those attacks include drive-by shootings and suicide bombings committed from 1995 to 2006 by Iran's terror proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
In making the lawsuit, the families of the terror victims noted they fear the billions of dollars to be released in the deal will be used by Iran to fund future terror attacks – a reality US President Barack Obama has already admitted will likely occur.
The families have been trying to get compensation from Iranian assets for over a decade in some cases, and in the lawsuit they argue the sanctions should only be lifted if Obama is able to certify to Congress that Iran no longer funds terrorism.
Lifting the sanctions and allowing Iran to join the SWIFT financial system reconnecting its banks with the global financial system "will enable Iran to more easily launder money, transfer funds for terrorist use and make the enforcement of terrorism-financing laws much more difficult," argues the lawsuit.
"It would be outrageous to release the $100 billion in frozen Iranian funds when these American families have unpaid court judgments against the terror sponsoring regime in Tehran," said Darshan-Leitner.
"For more than a decade Iran has refused to pay these court judgments and has thumbed its nose at these terror-victim families and the US court system. The $100 billion in frozen funds is the last leverage the families have to compel Iran to satisfy their judgments. If you release these funds you erase all hope for the families of ever getting a measure of justice against this outlaw regime."
"The US encouraged these families, grievously harmed by terrorism, to file suit against Iran and now the government has a moral duty to assist them in collecting on their judgments. To release the funds instead of turning them over to the victims would make a farce out of this hard fought legal process," she concluded.