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An Update on the Iranian Artifacts in the Chicago Federal Court

By James S. Irani - Our readers will clearly remember that pursuant to a default judgment issued by a Federal court in Washington, D.C., the plaintiffs in the said case, against the Islamic Republic of Iran in an allegedly terrorist-related matter, sought to enforce the judgment by way of attaching any assets and properties owned, controlled and managed by Iran in the United States. One such attachment was the house of the former Shah of Iran in Lubbock, Texas, which was sold off to partially satisfy the said default judgment.


Judge Gives Terror Victims a Victory Over Iran - In a ruling released yesterday, Judge Blanche Manning ordered the Iranian government to produce its records about how tens of thousands of ancient tablets and other antiquities ended up in the university's collections. -The Sun, New York 5/29/08

This writer, an attorney in New York City, prepared, distributed, received and delivered more than 1200 petitions to Judge Blanche M. Manning in the United States District Court in Chicago, on August 15, 2006 pleading to her that certain items of national importance should be exempt from such executions.


The items were ancient artifacts, tablets and clays loaned to the University of Chicago, in 1934, for study and exploration of new and old approach to our humanity more than 3,000 years ago. In my petition I reminded Judge Manning that the said artifacts and tablets "constitute[d] the history of Iran and thus belong to the people of Iran. They do not belong to any specific government or administration."


The defendant in the case, Islamic Republic of Iran, had remained silent and inquisitively indifferent to the case, the important ruling and consequences thereof from 1997 to 2006. The fate of our national treasures was decided between an American plaintiff and an American court, ex parte, without a representative of the true owners of the subject of litigation. Even in times of war and hostility among nations, in such cases, parties can appear in actions in limited capacity and with total immunity. No action was taken by the Iranian government. I should, perhaps, say any inaction was an action on the part of the Iranian government as it seems to have been a deliberate act. The University of Chicago had tried to intervene in the litigation by claiming to be the appropriate party in an appropriate jurisdiction; however, their claim was dismissed as they were only the trustees and beneficiaries of the artifacts and not the true owners thereof.


            Subsequent to the distribution and submission of our petitions to the court, in August 2006, the Iranian government, all of a sudden, as if to learn the news for the first time, made an appearance by an American law firm not claiming the ownership of the artifacts but by attacking the methods the plaintiff had sought to execute the default judgment. They tried to seek protective order by relying on a section of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (69-a) which every law student learns in second year at law school the interpretation of which has no application in the case at hand.


            In the May 23, 2008 ruling, the judge dismisses the defenses raised by the Iranian government's law firm. The defendant's attorneys then claim the artifacts were stolen and that the court should return them to their original owners and that they should not be subject to discovery for execution purpose. This defense fails right from its inception as there were no proofs submitted. This actually supports the plaintiff's assertion that Iran is the owner of the artifacts. The defense then jumps to the Algiers Accords, perhaps intentionally, to divert the court's attention from the true nature of the case. The Algiers Accords deal with cases submitted to the International Tribunals at The Hague's not at the U.S. Federal courts!


            The May 23, 2008 ruling in favor of the plaintiff to continue with discovery has dealt another blow to the chances of the Iranian government and the hopes of millions of Iranian people around the world. The discovery in the case will continue so will the setbacks of the defenses raised by the Iranian government's law firm. The defense did not include attacks on the merits of the case and the original jurisdiction of the court. It seems that the jurisdiction issue has thus been waived! As such, one will not be able to reverse the action which has been pending for more than ten years now. It is, therefore, imperative for the defendant to rationally analyze the issues of the case thoroughly, gather some think-tank lawyers familiar with both the Iranian and American laws and deal with the case in a meaningful, respectful and professional manner. I believe the US Supreme Court may have to eventually rule on this case and we may easily surmise what the outcome might be. Let us keep in mind, this is a civil matter. It is all about money. Better to lose money than to lose our national treasures and dignity, or worse yet, both. This could be resolved in a legally binding confidential, mutually satisfying manner to set no precedent. Stay tuned!


Jamshid S. Irani, an attorney practicing law in New York City, authors and comments on legal issues relating to Iranian interests worldwide.


James S. Irani
Attorney at Law
1170 Broadway, Suite 510
New York, New York 10001
Tel: (212) 683-7700
Fax: (212) 725-1772



Related Articles:

Major law firm enlisted by NIAC to protect Persian Tablets

Washington DC - Thousands of priceless artifacts from Persepolis that are on loan to the University of Chicago risk being auctioned off to the highest bidder. In an effort to defend the collective cultural heritage of Iranian Americans, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has secured pro bono representation from with Mayer Brown LLP with connection to the case, Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran. - By Shadee Malaklou (March 2008)

Federal Court Threatens Iranian-American Heritage
Tempers between the United States and Iran have flared over Iran's nuclear program and its alleged intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have wondered if the two countries would ever find common ground. However, several controversial rulings in the United States federal court have resulted in just that: the United States' Justice and State Departments have momentarily put aside their differences with Iran in order to protect several thousand Iranian cultural artifacts. -By Arash Hadjialiloo, NIAC (March 2008)


Achaemenid tablet translation remains unpublished due to lack of funding

The translation of 2586 clay Achaemenid tablets has remained unpublished due to lack of government funding. The tablets, written in cuneiform, were discovered along with a great number of other inscriptions at Persepolis in 1933 by the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. -MNA (January 2008)


Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran (03c9370): Default Judgment against a Nation
The recent ruling by Judge Manning of the United States District Court in Chicago on July 26, 2007 once again brings us back to the disheartening and disgraceful memories of one September day in 1997. Although the underlying terrorism case has been proceeding its routine legal process, such rulings put a stab in the heart and spirit of a nation which has tried to alienate itself from such accusations against its government. The pending case revolves on a $409 million default judgment. The question is whether a nation should pay for alleged terrorism charges/activities of its government and when that government ignores or defies the rule, it, the nation, should be punished.


Iran & Chicago University United to Redeem Persian Tablets

At last by representing itself in the US Federal Court thought appointing a lawyer, Iran and Chicago University have became allies to defend Iran's right over the loaned tablets at the US Court. -(July 2006)


... Payvand News - 05/01/08 ... --

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