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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Terror victims defeat US Department of Justice

A group of terror victims has won a victory against the US Department of Justice. The US District Court in Dallas, Texas has ruled that a newly enacted statute gives the claims of terror victims precedence over the criminal forfeiture statute that turned terrorists’ assets over to the government until now.
In 2002, the Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which provides, in part, that:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, … in every case in which a person has obtained a judgment against a terrorist party… the blocked assets of a terrorist party (including the blocked assets of any agency or instrumentality of that terrorist party) shall be subject to execution or attachment in aid of execution in order to satisfy such judgment ….
As such, the victims’ families countered that the newly legislated TRIA trumps the criminal forfeiture statute (as well as every other “provision of law”) and the terror victims’ rights overrides the DOJ’s.

No one had ever challenged the DOJ’s efforts under the criminal forfeiture statute using TRIA before and this case of first impression was brought before the Dallas district court. After a long litigation battle the court declared, in its precedent decision, that the victims’ families were correct and they were entitled to the Islamic terror group’s funds. The court ruled that putting seized terrorist assets into the hands of the terror victims truly furthers the congressional intent of the criminal forfeiture statute and of TRIA. It concluded that: “TRIA overrides any protection from execution the blocked HLF property might have due to criminal forfeiture law.”
Possibly more important than getting Hamas assets is the effect this ruling has on getting Iranian assets. For years, the US government has impounded Iranian assets under the criminal forfeiture statute, but the assets remain in government custody – and cannot be allotted to Iran’s terror victims – because of the criminal forfeiture statutes. Now, that may all be changing.


The picture at the top is from the 1997 Ben Yehuda Street bombing.

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