Victims of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut cannot attempt to seize funds belonging to Iran from international development banks or from state-run banks based in Japan and Korea, a federal judge has ruled.
Judge Royce Lamberth ruled yesterday that the institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have sovereign immunity and are exempt from most legal process.
In 2007, Judge Lamberth ruled that Iran was legally and financially responsible for the bombing because the Islamic nation funded and trained the terrorist group that carried it out, Hezbollah. He awarded the victims nearly $2.7 billion.
The summonses issued to the banks were some of more than two dozen issued by lawyers for the victims to multinational corporations and other entities earlier this year in a quest to track down Iranian money.
Judge Lamberth declined a request by a Japanese bank to sanction attorneys for the bombing victims for going after the state-run banks, but he gave the victims' lawyers a warning. "Plaintiffs' counsel has come dangerously close to such sanctionable conduct," the judge wrote. He said no punishment was warranted because "plaintiffs' counsels' misstatements of law may be attributed to lack of relevant legal expertise and incompetence."
A lawyer for the victims, David Cook, said he respected Judge Lamberth's rulings. "We are in the path of justice in enforcing this $2,656,944,877 judgment. Chasing around Iran down the path will not be easy effortless or free. Iran will never stop. But one day ... we will catch up," he said. He declined to comment on the judge's warning.
Mr. Cook said none of the writs served on multinational corporations or banks through the federal court in Washington had yet turned up Iranian funds, but that he is pursuing similar claims in four or five other American courts.