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Tehran Condemns Canada Court Ruling On Iranian Assets

  • RFE/RL

Iran has condemned a Canadian judge's order for Tehran's non-diplomatic assets in Canada to be handed over to victims of attacks allegedly carried out by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and by militants from Lebanon's Hizballah -- groups that both are sponsored by Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaber Ansari said on June 11 that the ruling "runs contrary to the international commitments of the Canadian government."

Ansari was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying the decision by Canada's Ontario Superior Court "is also contrary to the statements of the new Canadian government that it wants to normalize relations" with Iran.

The Canadian court ruling on June 10 awards about $13 million in non-diplomatic assets, land, and bank accounts in Canada to families of Americans who died in bombings or hostage-takings in Buenos Aires, Israel, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia from 1983 to 2002. Hundreds died in the attacks.

The Canadian court found Iran responsible for training Hamas and Hizballah operatives, and backing the groups financially.

The ruling mirrors a court victory against Tehran won by terrorist attack victims' families in the United States earlier this year, which Tehran has strongly denounced and is fighting in international arenas.

"Terrorism is one of the world's greatest threats," Ontario Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey said in his decision.

"The broad issue before the court is whether Iran is entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Canadian courts for its support of terrorism."

The Canadian lawsuits were brought under a relatively new law passed in 2012 that allows victims and their families to collect damages from state sponsors of terrorism.

Canada lists Iran as well as Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.

The ruling comes at an awkward time for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal government has been seeking to reestablish diplomatic ties with Iran and secure the release of a Montreal professor, Homa Hoodfar, who was detained this week in Tehran's notorious Evin prison without charges.

"As Canada seeks to reengage Iran, it is critical that Iran continue to be held to account in Canadian courts for its terrorism and human rights abuses,” said Danny Eisen of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, which represented the victims in the lawsuit and lobbied for the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court judgment order for about $2 billion in Iranian assets to be handed over to the victims' families has remained largely unpaid as Tehran has vowed to appeal it in international courts.

Iran did not initially defend either the U.S. or Canadian lawsuits.

In the U.S. case, Tehran later argued that it had not been properly served with the court papers.

It also argued that the case was filed too late, and the dollar amounts sought by the victims were "offensive."

But the U.S. court decision suggested Tehran was "gaming the system" by not initially defending itself.

It also found Iran's arguments without merit and declined to overturn the lower court judgments in favor of the victims.

With reporting by AFP and the National Post of Canada