As we learn about the “non ransom” payment of the equivalent of $400 million in euros and Swiss dollars to the Iranians for the release of five prisoners, it may be of interest to revisit that period in history that is the basis for the money owed to Iran.
Following the deposing of the Shah of Iran, so called Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy and held hostage 66 diplomats and U.S. citizens. The 444-day internment lasted from Nov. 4, 1979, until Jan. 21, 1981. In retaliation, President Jimmy Carter froze $8 billion of Iranian assets. Several attempts to rescue the hostages failed.
On Jan. 20, 1981, the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages were freed in exchange for the unfreezing of the $8 billion and immunity from lawsuits.
In 2000, the hostages and their families sued Iran under the Anti Terrorism Act. A federal judge ruled against the plaintiffs. At the time, the State Department was against the lawsuit, claiming it would make international relations difficult. What influence, if any, the State Department had in swaying the judge to throw out the suit is unknown.
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