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Americans Held Hostage In Iran Win Compensation

  • RFE/RL

American hostages in Iran are shown during the seizure of the U.S. Embassy by a group of Islamist students.

American hostages in Iran are shown during the seizure of the U.S. Embassy by a group of Islamist students.

U.S. diplomats and embassy staff who were held hostage in Tehran for 444 days following the 1979 revolution have won compensation after 36 years.

A spending bill that the U.S. Congress passed last week granted up to $ 4.4 million for each of the 53 former hostages or their estates, the New York Times reported on December 24.

The law authorizes payments of up to $10,000 per day of captivity for each of the 53 hostages, 37 of whom are still alive.

The sum will reportedly come from a $9 billion penalty paid by the French bank BNP Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba, and Sudan.

Victims of other state-sponsored terrorist attacks would also be eligible for benefits under the law.

“I had to pull over to the side of the road, and I basically cried,” Rodney Sickmann, who was a Marine sergeant working as a security guard at the embassy in Tehran, told The New York Times.

“Iran is not paying the money, but it’s as close as you can get,” said Thomas Lankford, an attorney who represented the former hostages and their families in a lengthy battle that continued even after the courts and the U.S. government repeatedly denied their requests for restitution.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Lankford called the resolution “gratifying after a long, long time.”

The hostages were seized by a group of students known as the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Some of the hostages were subjected to psychological torture and mistreatment.

Washington broke its diplomatic ties with Tehran following the embassy takeover and the hostage taking that lasted for more then 14 months.

Tensions between the two countries have significantly decreased in recent months as the result of months of nuclear negotiations that resulted in historical nuclear accord reached in July.

With reporting by The New York Times and The Washington Post