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COURT JUDGMENT

US judge orders $1.68bn payout to families over 1983 Beirut bombing

A file photograph from 25 October 1983 shows US Marines, part of the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, as they clear rubble from their bombed headquarters in Beirut. (Photo: EPA / JIM HOLLANDER)

A federal judge in New York ordered Iran's central bank and a European intermediary on Wednesday to pay out $1.68-billion to family members of troops killed in the 1983 car bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.

US District Judge Loretta Preska said a 2019 federal law stripped Bank Markazi, the Iran central bank, of sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, which sought to enforce a judgment against Iran for providing material support to the attackers.

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 23 October 1983 bombing at the Marine Corps barracks killed 241 US service members.

Victims and their families won a $2.65-billion judgment against Iran in 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, to partially satisfy the court judgment.

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 Defense Authorization Act.

Preska said 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 in 2021 ordered Clearstream not to move the funds until a court in that country recognises the US ruling. Clearstream has appealed that decision.

The case is Peterson et al v Islamic Republic of Iran et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-09195.

(Reporting by Jody Godoy in New York.)

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  • Roy Gordon says:

    I wonder whether the same court will order the Fed to pay out all the families of civilians killed in the US invasion of Iraq? An unjustified war.

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