A federal appeals court has ruled that plaintiffs injured in a 1997 Hamas terrorist attack in Jerusalem can't attach Iranian antiquities at Boston-area museums to fulfill a judgment award against the Republic of Iran.
On February 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a ruling by George O'Toole Jr. of the District of Massachusetts dissolving attachments of the property.
Jenny Rubin and other plaintiffs sought to attach Iranian antiquities from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and several Harvard University museums.
The First Circuit held that the antiquities are not "blocked assets" -- assets seized or frozen by the United States as part of a trade sanction, under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. The court also held that because Iran never claimed to own the museum pieces, they couldn't be "contested" and ultimately attached under Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations.
The case stemmed from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which found "clear and convincing evidence" in a 2003 ruling that Iran and other defendants gave terrorist training and other assistance to the Hamas terrorists behind the bombing.
Iran has not honored that judgment, so the judgment creditors filed a motion for attachment by trustee process in federal court in Massachusetts.
In September 2011, O'Toole held that the plaintiffs did not prove that any item at the museums was property of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He also held that Iranian law does not "vest ownership of the antiquities at issue with the government of Iran."
Senio r Judge Norman Stahl wrote the opinion in Rubin v. Harvard University, joined by Judge Jeffrey Howard and Senior Judge Kermit Lipez.
Stahl wrote that the First Circuit deferred to the Office of Foreign Assets Control's "reasonable position" that an asset can be contested "only if Iran itself has claimed an interest in the asset."
"Iran has never made such a claim with regard to the antiquities in the Museums' possession," Stahl wrote.