Fam­i­lies of 9/11 vic­tims may seize Iran as­sets in UK

Cyprus Today - - UK -

AN ENGLISH court has cleared the way to con­sider whether it will al­low the fam­i­lies of some of those killed in the Septem­ber 11, 2001 at­tacks on the United States to make a claim on Ira­nian as­sets in Bri­tain.

The rel­a­tives want the English High Court to en­force a 2012 de­ci­sion by a US court which found there was ev­i­dence to show that Iran pro­vided “ma­te­rial sup­port and re­sources to al Qaeda for acts of ter­ror­ism”. The mil­i­tant group car­ried out the at­tacks.

The New York court awarded the plain­tiffs dam­ages of over $7 bil­lion. Iran de­nies any links to al Qaeda or any in­volve­ment in the 9/11 at­tacks.

If the English court agrees to en­force the rul­ing, it could clear the way for as­sets in Eng­land and Wales to be frozen or seized. Ira­nian as­sets in Eng­land in­clude a cen­tral Lon­don build­ing and funds held by two sub­sidiaries of state-owned banks. This could add to Tehran’s trou­bles as it tries to stave off a fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

The June 8 rul­ing by a judge af­ter a hear­ing in the English High Court re­moved an ob­sta­cle that was hold­ing up the process.

The law re­quires the UK’s For­eign Office (FCO) to for­mally serve the le­gal papers to Iran’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs (MFA) be­fore the en­force­ment pro­ceed­ings can be­gin. Ac­cord­ing to a source at the FCO, it is rou­tinely dif­fi­cult to de­liver papers to the MFA. The judge ruled how­ever it was suf­fi­cient to try to no­tify them through other com­mu­ni­ca­tion such as email or post.

That de­ci­sion has un­blocked the process. The plain­tiffs will now ask a judge at the High Court in the next few months to con­sider whether the New York rul­ing can be en­tered as a judg­ment in English law, said their lawyer Natasha Har­ri­son, a part­ner at the Lon­don office of Boies Schiller Flexner. The judg­ment could then be en­forced, she said. This would mean as­sets could be frozen or seized.

An Ira­nian of­fi­cial said: “Iran will take all the nec­es­sary mea­sures to stop it.”

An Ira­nian for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial said the June rul­ing was “fab­ri­cated” and “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated”.

“Such al­le­ga­tions against Iran are aimed at di­vert­ing at­ten­tions from re­gional coun­tries that were in­volved in the 9/11 at­tacks,” that of­fi­cial said. “We are a victim of ter­ror­ism and have al­ways fought against ter­ror­ism.”

The plain­tiffs be­gan try­ing to en­force the New York judg­ment in Eng­land in 2015. They have al­ready got court sup­port in Lux­em­bourg where $1.6 bil­lion of Ira­nian as­sets are frozen. Iran has also con­tested those claims.

Lee Wolosky, an­other part­ner with law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, said that the plain­tiffs in­tend to pur­sue Ira­nian as­sets “wher­ever in the world they may be found in or­der to en­force these judg­ments”.

“And we ex­pect for­eign courts to per­mit en­force­ment of valid, fi­nal US judg­ments if they wish re­cip­ro­cal treat­ment in US courts,” he said.

The plain­tiffs’ le­gal team de­clined to com­ment on what Ira­nian as­sets in Bri­tain they would target.

Jeremy Cor­byn

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