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US judge orders $1.68bn compensation for 1983 Beirut barracks bomb

March 24, 2023 at 11:04 am

A view of the Central Bank of Iran [@AtharInanloo/Twitter]

A federal judge in New York has ordered Iran’s Central Bank and a European intermediary to pay $1.68 billion in compensation to the family members of US Marines killed in the 1983 bomb attack on their barracks in Beirut, Reuters has reported.

District Judge Loretta Preska said a 2019 federal law stripped Iran’s Bank Markazi of sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, which sought to enforce a judgment against Iran for providing material support to the bombers. Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

The bomb on 23 October 1983 killed 241 serving members of the US military. Victims and their families won a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran in a 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 Banking SA, a Luxembourg-based unit of Deutsche Boerse AG DB1Gn.DE, to partially satisfy the court judgment.

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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.

In January 2020, the US Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in the families’ favour, and ordered the case to be reconsidered in light of the new law, which was adopted the month before as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act.

Preska said that the 2019 law authorises 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 ordered Clearstream Banking SA in 2021 not to move the funds until a court in that country recognises the US ruling. The company has appealed against that decision.

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