U.S. Court Dismisses Victims’ Claims of U.S. Embassy Takeover in Iran and Second Court Awards A $ 21 Million against Iran for 1985 TWA Hijacking

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Saturday, June 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
On April 18, 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued an order vacating the default judgment on liability in favor of plaintiffs’ victims of the U.S. Embassy’s takeover in Iran in 1979 and dismissed the case on the basis of the U.S. Government’s motion to intervene. Judge Sullivan issued a 97-page Memorandum Opinion explaining the basis for his order and dismissal. Meanwhile, on April 19, 2002 U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson awarded the family of Robert D. Stethem $ 21 million for his slaying during the1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 827. The court had to interpret the application to the lawsuit of the 1996 Federal Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act), the Flawtwo Amendment, and the enactment on November 28, 2001 of an appropriations bill amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that specifically referred to the case. Together those laws waived foreign sovereign immunity and created a cause of action for individuals harmed by state sponsored acts of terrorism. Judge Sullivan explained “the courts must require that Congress make its intent clear, either by legislating unambiguously or accompanying ambiguous statutes with clear expressions of intent."