The Iranian government has been ordered to pay billions of dollars to American victims of terrorism. But it will try to convince the Supreme Court next week that the U.S. government can’t make it pay up.
The Court is slated to hear oral arguments Wednesday in Bank Markazi v. Peterson, a case full of twists and ironies that will test the powers of Congress, the courts, and the Iranian regime’s refusal to cooperate with either one.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Deborah Peterson, sued Iran for the wrongful death of her brother, who was killed in the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Hundreds more victims and family members, including victims of a 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia, also sued the Iranian regime or signed onto existing lawsuits; there are now more than 1,000 plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court.
American courts have repeatedly ruled that Iran was responsible for the bombings in Beirut and Saudi Arabia, and have ordered the country to pay billions of dollars to American victims and their family members.
Iran never made those payments. But then a few of the plaintiffs figured out that Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, had stashed assets worth roughly $1.7 billion inside the U.S., hiding the funds by channeling them through banks in Italy and Luxembourg until they wound up in a Citibank account.