US Supreme Court to decide on Iran artifact case
WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide on a long-running legal battle over whether Persian artifacts in Chicago museums can be seized as compensation for victims of a terror attack in Israel.
The court will have the final word in the more than decade-long saga between Iran and five US citizens, who blame the Islamic republic for its support of militant group Hamas.
The case highlights the difficulty for victims in obtaining judgments in their favor against sovereign states accused of supporting organizations considered by Washington to be terror groups.
The last decision in the case favored Tehran: a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the artifacts being kept at the Field Museum and at the University of Chicago were immune to seizure.
The case stems from a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem that was carried out by Hamas.
Five US citizens injured in the attack won a $71.5 million civil judgment against Iran because it provided material support and training to Hamas.
Among the artifacts were a collection of 2,500-year-old clay tablets bearing ancient cuneiform script which have been in the care of the University of Chicago since the 1930s.
The victims also sought to seize a collection of artifacts at the Field Museum which were purchased in 1945 from German archeologist Ernst Herzfeld.
Iran does not claim ownership of the collection, but the victims have argued that they do in fact belong to Iran because Herzfeld stole them and smuggled them out of the country.
The issue will be heard by the US Supreme Court in its next annual session beginning in October.