Image: The lawsuit was brought by more than 1,000 Americans who say the attacks were orchestrated by Iran [Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]
The US Supreme Court has ruled that almost $2bn in frozen Iranian assets must be turned over to American families of people killed in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.
The ruling on Wednesday dealt a setback to Iran’s central bank, which had challenged a 2014 ruling by a New York-based appeals court that the money, held in a Citibank trust account in New York, should be handed over to the plaintiffs.
“We are extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which will bring long-overdue relief to more than 1,000 victims of Iranian terrorism and their families, many of whom have waited decades for redress,” said Ted Olson, a lawyer for the victims.
Lawyers for the Iranian bank did not immediately respond to journalists seeking comment.
The lawsuit was brought by more than 1,000 Americans who have waged a long legal battle seeking compensation for attacks they say Iran orchestrated.
‘Material support to Hezbollah’
The plaintiffs accused Iran of providing material support to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shia political and military group responsible for the 1983 truck bomb attack at the Marine compound in Beirut.
The attack killed 241 US service members.
The plaintiffs also sought compensation related to other attacks including the 1996 Khobar Towers truck bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US service members.
After lobbying by the families, the Obama administration, the US Senate, and a legal group representing leaders of the House of Representatives all filed court papers backing the families.
In 2012 the US Congress passed a law stating that the frozen funds should go towards satisfying a $2.65bn judgment won by the families against Iran in US federal court in 2007.
The ruling came during a delicate period in US-Iranian relations, following the January implementation of a landmark accord reached last year by the US and five other world powers to lift economic sanctions in exchange for Iran accepting limits on its nuclear programme.