The court ruled that three Iranian Banks (Markazi, Melli and Saderat) along with Syria, Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Information and Security are all liable for the brutal murders of Eitam and Na’ama, whose children were 9, 7, 4, and 10 months old at the time of the attack. An award of monetary damages will be determined at a later date.
The family of the Henkins originally filed a $360 million wrongful-death lawsuit against Iran and Syria in federal court in Washington. All three banks named in the lawsuit have been sanctioned for funding terrorism.
The verdict marks the second time in one week that entities bankrolling terrorism are being held publicly accountable. Federal agents recently announced charges in a first-of-its-kind attempt by Iran to kidnap a US-based human-rights activist. Brooklyn resident Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American, became a target after she used her social-media accounts to highlight Tehran’s treatment of women and its mandate requiring women to wear head scarves.
In that instance, the Iranian government unsuccessfully tried to lure Alinejad to Iran through her relatives, then paid investigators to spy in the United States.
In Alinejad’s case, a California resident has been charged with financing the scheme. Kidnapping conspiracy charges have been announced against four Iranians who remain at-large in Iran.
Cases that find terrorist groups such as Hamas, and also their funders and financial conduits— responsible for these heinous acts are important steps towards justice for victims of terror, but there is still a long way to go.
The court’s recent actions are a signal that you cannot kill American citizens or target them with terrorist acts without consequences.
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States significantly shifted its focus to combat terrorism. We have seen the United States not just pursue terrorist organizations but make changes in the way money is accessible to them by cutting off the flow of funding. Financing is the oxygen needed for terrorism.
That Congress has enacted numerous terrorism litigation statutes is heartening. But despite legislators’ clear intent, there have been many disappointing rulings related to financiers who are aiding and abetting terrorism that have dissuaded others from following this path. Still, this avenue must continue to be pursued.
Changes in the legislative branch in terms of sanctioning countries that support terrorism have made headway. In addition, the executive branch currently maintains lists of bad actors who have participated in state-sponsored terrorism. And now in this watershed moment, the judicial branch is joining in the fight by punishing those who transfer funds to terrorist organizations.
Halting terrorism requires following the money to its source — and then shutting the funders down. The recent court ruling in D.C. federal court should serve as a further deterrent to Iran’s terrorist funders.
Holding Iran’s central bank, Markazi, and two other banks, Melli and Saderat, which have branches around the world, accountable for Iran’s nefarious deeds bankrolling terrorists is an important first. Moving forward, our nation must continue using legal avenues to tie the hands of those with American blood on them.
Jonathan Missner is managing partner at Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, a Washington-based international law firm that just won a historic court ruling against Iranian state sponsors of terror marking the first time that banks in Iran are being held responsible for the murder of an American citizen by a foreign terrorist organization.