Hundreds of thousands of dollars tied to Iranian financial institutions and frozen by U.S. banks remain off-limits to terrorism victims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled today. The problem, the court said, was the lack of proof the Iranian government owned the bank accounts at issue.
Families of victims of the 1996 bombings at the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Saudi Arabia sued the Iranian government in 2000, accusing Iran of supporting the terrorist group behind the attack. The families won a default judgment—Iran never participated in the case—and a judge awarded approximately $591 million in damages.
The plaintiffs began what U.S. District Senior Judge Royce Lamberth once described as the "often-frustrating and always-arduous" task of finding Iranian assets to satisfy judgments. In August 2011, Lamberth ordered Sprint Nextel Corp., to pay more than $610,000 it owed to an Iranian state telecommunications agency to the plaintiffs instead.