Terror Victims Sue to Keep Iran Sanctions Intact

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Hours before President Barack Obama’s address defending the Iran deal, a conservative Israeli group filed a lawsuit Wednesday demanding to block sanctions relief until Iran’s central bank satisfies the more than $152 million court judgments that they hold.
     The family of Shlomo Leibovitch, the lead plaintiff in a group of 21 family members, has a $32 million award for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack that killed his brother-in-law and maimed his daughter in 2003.
     All of the families in the complaint say they are owed millions in judgments stemming from Iran-sponsored attacks between 1995 and 2006.
     They sued the U.S. Department of State and the Department of the Treasury and the secretaries of those agencies, John Kerry and Jacob Lew, in New York on Wednesday to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Iran and the P5+1 signed on July 14.
     The plan calls for the United States to lift sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to a permanent inspections regime preventing the country from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
     While the lawsuit claims that the sanctions relief will unfreeze up to $150 billion in Iranian assets, the White House calls that figure “entirely off base,” putting the figure at closer to $50 billion.
     Echoing his cabinet’s testimony before the Senate last month, Obama said in a televised address today that Iran submitted to the “strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.”
     “Let’s not mince words – the choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war,” Obama said.
     Joining the deal’s Republican opponents in Congress, Wednesday’s lawsuit against the deal comes from groups affiliated with conservative politics.
     Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshana-Leitner, one of the attorneys representing the families, founded the group Shurat HaDin, Hebrew for the letter of the law.
     Earlier this year, her group helped survivors of attacks in Israel hold the Palestinian Authority liable for supporting attacks during the Second Intifada in a $218.5 million judgment, an award automatically tripled to $655.5 million under anti-terrorism law.
     The New York Times reported that 90 percent of the group’s judgments have not been paid, and that its critics accuse it of practicing “‘lawfare,’ abusing the courts to score political points,” even if the suits do not succeed.
     Lashing out at those it perceives to be Israel’s enemies, the organization has sued Jimmy Carter for publishing the book “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid,” alleging that it was a deception to call it nonfiction. It has also filed a series of war-crime charges against Palestinian officials at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and has gone to court to oppose protesters supporting boycotts of Israeli goods.
     Another conservative activist, Larry Klayman, sued in a federal court in Florida last month, calling the Iran deal “unconstitutional” because the ratification of a treaty requires a two-thirds vote of Congress.
     The families’ lawsuit objects to the deal on other grounds, arguing that “lifting of sanctions will result in plaintiffs losing their only remaining leverage against Iran to enforce their judgments.”
     Darshana-Leitner echoed that fear in a statement saying that sanctions relief would “erase all hope for the families of ever getting a measure of justice” and “make a farce out of this hard fought legal process.”
     The families also worry that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will use the money to finance terrorism.
     Alleging that the government is aware of this possibility, the complaint quotes an anonymous State Department official as saying, “We are of course aware and concerned that, despite the massive domestic spending needs facing Iran, some of the resulting sanctions relief could be used by Iran to fund destabilizing actions.”
     The families want an injunction preventing sanctions relief until the plaintiffs get paid.
     Their Brooklyn-based attorney is Robert Tolchin of the Berkman Law Office.

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