Iran hails Luxembourg court’s rejection of US asset seizure

Iran has welcomed a decision by a Luxembourg court rejecting an attempt by families of 9/11 victims to gain access to frozen Iranian assets for alleged Iranian involvement in the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks.

al-monitor General view of the city of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, March 25, 2017.  Photo by Reuters/Eric Vidal.

Topics covered

september 11, al-qaeda, sanctions, international law, luxembourg, judiciary

Mar 28, 2019

Iran has welcomed a decision by a Luxembourg court rejecting a US court ruling in a case involving American plaintiffs' attempts to gain access to $1.6 billion in frozen Iranian assets stemming from the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks. The Foreign Ministry hailed the decision as a new era in which the United States cannot will its way in the world.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahman Ghassemi, speaking to reporters about the ruling that prevented the assets' seizure, said, “This success was the result of a complaint filed by the Central Bank of Iran and cooperation between the Central Bank, the Foreign Ministry and legal advisers of the president to realize the rights of the Iranian people.” 

Ghassemi continued, “Undoubtedly, the era of American totalitarian and forceful behavior toward other countries for various reasons and with baseless accusations has come to an end, and this ruling at this time shows that in the international community, courts that have an independent approach still exist.” He added, “The United States has paid exorbitant costs to incite world public opinion against an independent country like Iran.”

Regarding the 2001 hijackings and attacks on New York and Washington by the Sunni extremists of al-Qaeda, Ghassemi said, “There is solid evidence and documents about the attacks and attackers.” He accused the United States of “exonerating” the original attackers and “deviating public opinion away from them” in order to confiscate Iran’s wealth. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. None of the attackers were citizens of Iran, which has an overwhelmingly Shiite population.

In a dig at American allies in the region who rely on the United States for their security, Ghassemi said, “Mr. Trump should learn that Iranians and their great and wise people are completely different from other countries … that rent [US] security and support.” Ghassemi said that with various Iranian organizations working together, the United States has faced “numerous failures” in its approach toward Iran and that it would continue to do so.

While Ghassemi tried to link the court ruling to President Donald Trump, who has been publicly confrontational toward Iran since taking office in 2017, the case involved dates to 2011, when US District Court Judge George Daniels held that Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah had supported al-Qaeda and therefore owed damages to the hundreds of family members of the victims of the attacks. 

The case, Havlish et al. v. bin Laden et al., was brought to court in Manhattan by attorneys for the families. Fiona Havlish’s husband had died in the attack in New York, when hijackers guided two passenger planes into the World Trade Center towers. Further south, another set of hijackers crashed a plane into the Pentagon, in Virginia. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers, having learned about the attacks in New York and outside Washington, decided to launch an assault against the hijackers. 

The Manhattan court had relied on the testimony of a number of individuals who worked on the 9/11 Commission, former CIA officers, journalists and alleged defectors from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The court awarded the families $7 billion in damages. As part of the sanctions stemming from Iran’s nuclear program, $1.6 billion of it was frozen in Luxembourg. It was the latter amount that the families had sought. The Luxembourg court ruled, however, that no provisions of international law required Luxembourg to uphold the US court decision.

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