WirePOLITICS: Act will compensate American victims of Iranian terrorism

Tom Waring, the Wire

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick joined the House last week in passing the Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act [H.R. 3457].

The legislation, co-sponsored by Fitzpatrick, would prohibit the president from providing sanctions relief to Iran until it has paid compensation to American victims of its terrorism who have successfully obtained judgments in U.S. courts — including 10 Bucks and Montgomery county families.

“It’s unconscionable to think that we would allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terror access to billions of dollars in sanctions relief and unfreezing of held assets while victims of Iranian terrorism are left with nothing,” Fitzpatrick said. “The Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act rights that wrong. It says simply: ‘Not one cent in sanctions relief for Iran until these families are paid.’ That’s not a partisan demand — that’s common sense.”

Fitzpatrick, the chairman of the bipartisan Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, held a number of hearings on Iran and the administration’s nuclear agreement. At one hearing, an attorney testified that American citizens and families who were victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks are owed billions in compensation as awarded by United States judges under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

“In July, I wrote a letter to Secretary (Jack) Lew of the Treasury and Secretary (John) Kerry at the State Department asking whether or not they addressed the issue as part of the negotiation. That was July 29. I have yet to receive any sort of response,” said Fitzpatrick, speaking on the floor during debate. “The deafening silence from the administration has led me to believe they completely overlooked the victims of terrorism… What we’re going to do is give this money to the Islamic Republic of Iran and not to American victims. That’s wrong.”

U.S. courts have held Iran liable for a number of attacks carried out by its terrorist proxies, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which together killed 260 American servicemen. These attacks were linked in court to Iranian support or financing.

Dozens of such judgments remain outstanding — with over $40 billion in unpaid damages through more than 80 cases over the last 15 years, according to the Congressional Research Service. Overall, 40 Pennsylvania families are included in suits against Iran.

In other news, Fitzpatrick released the following statement regarding the announcement that Speaker John Boehner will resign from the speakership and his seat in Congress:

“Under Speaker Boehner’s leadership this House has worked to represent the American people and their interests every day. There is no doubt the Speaker loves his country, his state and this institution. His decision today is the most humble, graceful and selfless act that I’ve seen in my time in Congress. I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”