WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge awarded the widow of the former prime minister of Iran $12 million in damages for the assassination of her husband.
The court determined that Shahintaj Bakhtiar suffered severe emotional distress after Chapour Bakhtiar’s murder in 1991. She considered him her soul mate and has worn black since his death, the ruling states.
Bakhtiar, a U.S. citizen at the time of her husband’s assassination, was granted relief under the state-sponsored terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, for which Iran has qualified since 1984. U.S. District Judge Kennedy ruled that Chapour was a victim of an extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, and Iran was guilty of inflicting emotional distress on Bakhtiar and her son by committing a terrorist act.
Living under heavy security after Ayatollah Kalkhali asserted a religious judgment for his death in 1979 for opposition activities, Chapour’s safety was shattered on Aug. 6, 1991, when his police officer son was out of town, and a fellow member of a dissident group – who was actually an Iranian agent – entered Chapour’s home with two others and murdered him with kitchen knives. The murder plot was laced with Iranian government involvement; Iranian officials issued passports to two of the murderers, arranged a business invite from a French company to help the assassins get their visas, and sent someone to help them escape.
The court found no evidence that Chapour suffered emotional distress at the time of his assassination. The court also determined that Chapour’s son, Goudard, was too young to have suffered emotional distress from Chapour’s assassination because he had no memory of his father, Kennedy ruled. The judge said Chapour’s stepdaughter, Manijeh, became suicidal after his death, but lacked the familial status to claim relief as a direct victim. Chapour had wanted to adopt Manijeh, but was misinformed by a lawyer that he could not because she was older than 16.
“Bad legal advice does not qualify as a legal barrier,” Kennedy wrote, making Manijeh ineligible for relief because she could have been legally adopted when Chapour was alive.
The plaintiffs could not recover punitive damages because they failed to pursue personal injury or wrongful death claims against Iran.