WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge has ordered Iran to pay $1.45 billion to the family of Bob Levinson, a former FBI agent and the longest-held civilian hostage in American history.
The decision out of Washington awards Levinson’s wife and seven adult children $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping in 2007.
The family and the Trump administration stated in March that they believe Levinson had died in Iranian custody.
The judgment issued by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, the Levinsons said in a statement, is just the first step in a fight for justice for their husband and father who disappeared more than 13 years ago.
“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions. Judge Kelly’s decision yesterday won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage taking by Iran,” the family said.
Kelly, a Trump appointee, said in the opinion Thursday that Iran kidnapping and torturing U.S. citizens, either directly or through militant groups, is “part of a longstanding pattern and policy, making the need for deterrence clear.”
Levinson’s kidnapping is “barbaric conduct that has caused him and his family immeasurable suffering,” the judge added.
Photos were sent to the Levinsons in 2011 showing the missing American wearing an orange jumpsuit. Iran has repeatedly denied holding Levinson and said it could not find any signs of him being alive.
The damages award follows a two-day evidentiary hearing last year in which Levinson’s family shared agonizing accounts of their individual mental, emotional and physical adversities after his disappearance while on a business trip to Kish Island in March 2007.
U.S. officials in recent years concluded that Iran kidnapped the former FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was on a private investigation.
Kelly ruled the Levinsons were entitled to damages in March.
At the time, U.S. officials had not publicly stated Levinson was believed to be dead. His family said the court’s decision was not about money but about bringing him home.
“American politicians have short memories. We have to periodically remind them that there is an American still imprisoned in Iran, and they need to get him the hell out of there,” the family’s attorney David McGee told Courthouse News in March.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said the agency will continue to investigate Levinson’s disappearance even though credible evidence indicates he died in captivity.
“This does not mean that the FBI has given up on finding out what happened to Bob. We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said in a statement in March.
Kelly, who showed emotional candor uncommon for a judge from the bench during the Levinsons’ hearing, called the kidnapping “barbarous” and “dastardly.”
“He has been unable to see his children grow up, enjoy professional success, marry, and become parents themselves — as they have many times over. But they have not forgotten him, not by a long shot,” the judge wrote in his opinion granting default judgment against Iran.