Daily Israel Report

American Terror Victims Seek to Seize Iranian Assets

Victims look to seize US-provided internet resources belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran, sparking debate on internet and politics.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 6/25/2014, 5:57 PM

Internet, Iran (illustrative)
Internet, Iran (illustrative)
Reuters

A group of American victims of terror and family members of those who have been injured or killed in attacks sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) have moved to attach and seize the internet licenses, contractual rights and domain names being provided by the United States to the extremist regime in Tehran. 

The families, who hold unsatisfied American federal court judgments amounting to more than a billion dollars against the Iranian government seek to own all the "top-level domain" (TLD) names provided by the US to Iran including the .ir TLD, the ایران TLD and all Internet Protocol (IP) addresses being utilized by the Iranian government and its agencies.

The court papers have been  served on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an agency of the US Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, which administrator the World Wide Web.  

Domain names (such as http://www.usa.gov/) are the unique words or phrases that users depend upon to find places and information on the Internet. Domain names are structured hierarchically; the top of being the “top-level” domain (TLD), the suffix attached to the domain name, such as “.com”, “.gov,” and “country-code” TLD’s (ccTLD’s) such as “ru”, for Russia, “.ir,” for Iran, etc.  Countries are authorized by ICANN to allocate those TLD’s, making “.ir”, belonging to judgment debtor Iran, a practical asset.

ICANN licenses the TLDs to different world governments who then are permitted to appoint agents who sell the domain names and their country specific internet suffixes to individuals, businesses and organizations. 

The families are represented in this unprecedented civil action by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel-Aviv, Israel and Robert Tolchin of New York. 

"This is the first time that terror victims have moved to seize the domain names, IPs and internet licenses of terrorism sponsoring states like Iran and are attempting to satisfy their court judgments," Darshan-Leitner said. "The Iranians must be shown that there is a steep price to be paid for their sponsorship of terrorism. In business & legal terms it is quite simple – we are owed money, and these assets are currency worth money. "

In cases brought in the US by the terror victim plaintiff/judgment holders against Iran, the districts courts have repeatedly ruled that the suicide bombing and shooting attacks perpetrated by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations in Israel were funded by the Islamic regime through MOIS.  

However, although the families have received compensatory and punitive damage judgments against the defendants, Iran has refused to satisfy the court awards.  Iran has been designated by the Department of State as an outlaw nation that provides material support and resources to terrorist groups worldwide since 1996.  

Under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act  (28 U.S.C. § 1610(g)), legislated to assist terror victims to collect judgments against foreign states abrogates Iran’s sovereign immunity for claims arising from acts of terrorism and subjects to attachment “the property of a foreign state… and the property of an agency or instrumentality of such a state, including property that is a separate juridical entity or is an interest held directly or indirectly in a separate juridical entity.”

According to Baruch Ben-Haim, whose son Shlomo was severely injured in a 1995 terrorist bombing of an Israeli bus, the US has been guilty of hypocrisy over these issues.

"It’s not right that the US government would provide these licenses to Iran while it is refusing to pay off the judgments handed down against it for funding global terrorism," he said. "The federal court awards given to our families must be satisfied."

Darshan-Leitner agreed. 

"For years the Iranian government has refused to pay its judgments, thumbing its nose at these terror victims and the American court system," she stated. "Our clients continue to suffer from the suicide bombing that Iran financed in Jerusalem nearly seventeen years ago. It is not our intention to shut down Iran's internet usage, but we want what is rightfully due.  If by seizing any funds earned from these licenses and contractual rights we can satisfy the judgments, we will have served our clients.”

"We remain committed to helping these American families satisfy their judgments," she added.