By Shervin Boloorian, National Iranian American Council
Washington DC, July 27, 2006 - The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) are joining forces to protect priceless Persian artifacts from being sold for private profit. The artifacts excavated from Persepolis are under threat of being seized by a legal defense team and auctioned off as compensation for a 1997 terror bombing attack in Israel.
Already having spurred a grassroots effort to persuade US Department of Justice actors to assist the University of Chicago, NIAC is now working with IABA and other Iranian-American organizations to pursue additional and complimentary avenues to prevent the ancient relics from being auctioned
The Iranian government's recent decision to appear in court has opened up opportunities for outside parties to play a role in protecting the artifacts. Since the Iranian government is being sued, only the government in Tehran itself has standing to represent itself. At a lower level court, the University of Chicago's efforts to retain the clay tablets was rejected for this precise reason.
The case is scheduled to be presented before the 7th Circuit Court on August 21st and has gained the close attention of the Iranian-American community since the unfavorable intercultural precedent that it sets.
Defense lawyers claim that Iran is financially responsible for a terror act committed by the Palestinian group Hamas nine years ago in Jerusalem. To fulfill Iran’s obligation, claimants are justifying the seizure of pre-Islamic tablets loaned to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in 1933, 64 years before the attack was committed.
Thus far, the five victims of the bombing have collectively won $423.5 million in mental and physical damages from the Iranian government, although Iran does not recognize the US courts' jurisdiction.
Whereas NIAC is sympathetic to victims of the terror attack, seeking the confiscation of the 2,500 year old that are part of the Iranian nation's cultural and historical heritage is simply unjustified.
Together with IABA and other interested community groups, NIAC is preparing a coordinated three-part strategy to block the sale of the clay tablets, which date back to the Achamenid dynasty.
This strategy would, among other steps, include:
1) Legal assistance by filing "friends of the court” briefs, supporting the University of Chicago’s and the Iranian people’s right to retaining the artifacts.
2) Grassroots pressure on the Department of Justice to take appropriate action against the auction.
3) Measures to solicit help from friends in Congress who share the concern about the risks to American interests and implications for international archeological security. Washington certainly does not want other countries to take it to court and have its historical artifacts confiscated.
Click here to send a letter to the Justice Department urging it to prevent the seizure.
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