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Friday, October 30, 2020

US court: Iran owes $1.4B over ex-FBI agent presumed dead

In a ruling dated Thursday, the US District Court in Washington found Iran owed Levinson's family $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping.

By: AP | Dubai | October 7, 2020 9:41:57 am
Robert Levinson, US court ruling on Robert Levinson, Iran fine on Robert Levinson, Robert Levinson news, Indian ExpressAn FBI poster showing a composite image of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, right, of how he would look like now after five years in captivity, and an image, center, taken from the video, released by his kidnappers, and a picture before he was kidnapped, left, displayed during a news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

A US judge has ordered Iran to pay $1.45 billion to the family of a former FBI agent believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic Republic while on an unauthorized CIA mission to an Iranian island in 2007.

The judgment this month comes after Robert Levinson’s family and the US government now believe he died in the Iranian government’s custody, something long denied by Tehran, though officials over time have offered contradictory accounts about what happened to him on Kish Island.

Tensions remain high between the US and Iran amid President Donald Trump’s maximalist pressure campaign over Tehran’s nuclear program. And though the US and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since the aftermath of the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, America stills holds billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets that could be used to pay Levinson’s family.

In a ruling dated Thursday, the US District Court in Washington found Iran owed Levinson’s family $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping.

The court cited the case of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died in 2017 shortly after being freed from captivity in North Korea, in deciding to award the massive amount of punitive damages to Levinson’s family.

“Iran’s conduct here is also unique, given that, astonishingly, it plucked a former FBI and DEA special agent from the face of the earth without warning, tortured him, held him captive for as long as 13 years, and to this day refuses to admit its responsibility,” the ruling by Judge Timothy J. Kelly said.

“And his wife and children, and their spouses and children, while keeping Levinson’s memory alive, have had to proceed with their lives without knowing his exact fate. These are surely acts worthy of the gravest condemnation,” the judge added.

In a statement, Levinson’s family called the court’s award “the first step in the pursuit of justice.”

“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions,” the family said.

“Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage taking by Iran.”

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