The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of terrorist attacks cannot seize Iranian antiquities currently on loan to a museum in Chicago in order to help satisfy a $71.5 million dollar judgment against Iran.
The 8-0 ruling penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a loss for United States citizens who were either wounded or a close relative to those injured in an attack in September 1997, when Hamas carried out three suicide bombings in a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem.
The petitioners sued Iran in US federal court alleging it was responsible for the bombing because it provided material support to Hamas. The court entered a judgment in their favor in the amount of $71.5 million.
Because Iran didn’t pay the judgment, the petitions attempted to seize assets that are located in the United States including a collection of approximately 30,000 clay tablets known as the Persepolis Collection that was loaned to the University of Chicago in 1937. The victims sought to do so under a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
But Sotomayor wrote that the law, which grants foreign states immunity from suits in the United States with some exceptions, “does not provide a freestanding basis for parties” to “attach and execute” against the property of a foreign state.
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she dealt with the case in her previous job as solicitor general during the Obama administration.