Police officers stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, U.S., January 19, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Americans injured in a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem cannot seize ancient Persian artifacts from a Chicago museum to satisfy a $71.5 million court judgment against Iran, which they had accused of complicity in the attack.
The justices, in an 8-0 ruling, upheld a lower court decision in favor of Iran that had prevented the plaintiffs from collecting on the judgment, which Tehran has not paid, by obtaining antiquities held at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. The important Persian cultural artifacts, on loan to the museum since the 1930s, include clay tablets boasting some of the oldest writing in the world.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision.
The decision could make it harder for plaintiffs in other cases arising from militant attacks overseas to seek compensation by seizing and selling off cultural relics owned by foreign countries.
The case required the Supreme Court to determine what types of assets are immune from seizure under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. That 1976 federal law largely shields foreign governments from liability in American courts, except for countries like Iran that have been designated by the US government as state sponsors of terrorism.
Iran is one of several countries and organizations ordered by US courts to pay damages in similar cases, though such orders have been difficult to enforce.
The lawsuit stems from a 1997 attack in which three members of the Islamic militant group Hamas blew themselves up at a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing five people.
Several of the injured, including lead plaintiff Jenny Rubin, and their relatives sued Iran in federal court alleging it had provided material support for the attackers.