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Joined: 24 Jun 2003
|Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 11:34 am Post subject: U.S. Court Awards $466 million to Iranian Victim
|Attorney ZOHREH MIZRAHI wrote:
KAMALFAR FREE!... Iranian Dissident Receives Refugee Status in Canada
This is such a great news, so happy to hear it. Please click on the title of the article to read the original article off of Pajamas Media
Kamalfar will not be returned to Iran, as Russian authorities were threatening to do, but will receive refugee status in Canada.
PJM received a copy of the following email to Iranian-American filmmaker and activitist Ardeshir Arian from an attorney, Zohreh Mizrahi:
I am very pleased to inform you, as promised earlier, that Canada finally issued the refugee status to Zahra and her children and that they will be leaving Moscow on Wednesday, March 14 with final destination, Vancouver on March 15 to resettle there.
I want to thank you for all your wonderful work, patience, and humanitarian efforts.
ZOHREH MIZRAHI, Esq.
|Associated Press wrote:
Judge Awards $466 Million In Lawsuit Against Iran
Friday, January 4, 2008; Page A08
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 3 -- Iran must pay $466 million to the family of a Los Angeles man who was tortured and executed there a decade ago for spying, a federal court ruled.
The family of Siavash Bayani won by default in U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr.'s Dec. 28 ruling because Iran ignored the legal action and presented no defense. The family must try to collect from a nation that does not recognize the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
Lawyer Zohreh Mizrahi, who represented the family, said Thursday that she is confident the plaintiffs will be able to collect by seeking Iranian assets frozen in the United States, which has an economic embargo with Iran.
An after-hours call to the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington was not answered.
Bayani was an officer in the Iranian air force before the 1979 revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He and his family sought U.S. asylum in 1984 after the Revolutionary Guard Corps began purging military officers.
Bayani became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but in 1995 he returned to Iran to care for his mother, who was terminally ill with leukemia. He was arrested five months later.
According to the lawsuit, Bayani was tortured in prison. Iranian officials contacted the family and offered to get Bayani released in exchange for money. Relatives paid $95,000, but Bayani was tried and hanged in 1997 for spying.
|U.S. Court Awards $466 million to Iranian Victim
Thursday, January 3, 2008 9:35 AM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
The family of a naturalized American citizen who was arrested, tortured, and executed in Iran , have won a $466 million judgment in U.S. federal court against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the intelligence ministry, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Former Iranian air force officer Siavash Bayani was executed in August 1997, two years after returning to Iran to care for his terminally-ill mother.
He was repeatedly tortured during his detention in Tehran ’s notorious Evin prison, according to testimony by family members presented during emotionally-charged court hearings in Washington , DC .
A government newspaper, Salam, alleged that Bayani was executed because he had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
But according to U.S. District Court judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., Bayani “was never employed by the Central Intelligence Agency or any other U.S. government agency and never received money from the U.S. government for information about the Islamic regime in Iran or for any other services.”
The judgment, handed down on December 28, comes on the heels of more than $6 billion in compensatory and punitive damages awarded victims of state-sponsored terrorist acts in U.S. courts, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.
“This judgment sets several precedents,” said Zohreh Mizrahi, a Los Angeles attorney who represented the Bayani family in the lawsuit against Iran .
“This is the first case involving a U.S. citizen who was killed by the Iranian government on Iranian soil. It is also the first case against the Revolutionary Guards Corps since they have been designated as a terrorist entity by the U.S. government. “
Judge Kennedy awarded the Bayani family $400 million in punitive damages. “That is the highest amount ever awarded to a victim of Iranian-government terrorism,” Ms. Mizrahi said.
Judge Kennedy was visibly affected when Fatemeh Bayani recounted how she and her husband had returned to Iran in February 1995, believing that the government of “moderate” president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani would uphold its pledge to allow exiles to return home.
Upon arrival at Mehrebad airport in Tehran , the authorities confiscated Siavash Bayani’s United States passport.
Five months later, he returned home from a job interview and told his wife it was no longer safe for her to stay in Tehran .
She left Iran on July 17, 1995. The next day, Siavash was arrested and taken to Evin prison, where he was held incommunicado for over a year.
In the months before he was killed, the prison authorities lured Bayani and his family into believing that they could buy his freedom.
Fatemeh and Bayani’s mother “collected the family’s life savings, withdrew the maximum amounts from their credit cards, and took out loans from friends and relatives,” Judge Kennedy wrote in his account of the case. “These efforts yielded $95,000,” which Fatemeh sent to Bayani’s mother in Tehran , “so that she could pay government officials.”
When she was allowed to visit her son in prison, she was stunned because he had lost nearly half his normal weight, and his body was covered in bruises.
Bayani was hung by the neck in prison only hours after his mother died and could no longer make payments to prison officials.
Until now, the Iranian government has refused to appear in court and has pretended not to notice the lawsuits.
When notice of the judgment was presented to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Tehran last week, an official wrote that he “could not accept” service, and signed his name.
“That sure sounds like getting served to me,” said Thomas Fortune Fay, a lawyer who successfully litigated on behalf of the family of Alisa Flatow, a 20-year old university student from New Jersey who was killed by an Iranian-backed suicide bomber in Gaza in 1995.
Since the Flatow case in 1996, fifteen other defendants have won judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran and received partial payment out of Iranian government funds that had been frozen by the United States Treasury since 1979.
The largest pool of frozen assets was Iran ’s Foreign Military Sales account, which was paid out in December 2000 to the victims following strongly bipartisan legislation.
On December 14, Congress passed new legislation as part of the Defense Authorization bill that would expand the right of victims of state-sponsored terrorism to sue those governments and their agents
“The tangible effect is to allow us to go after real estate,” said Fay. “Going after anything else is like trying to shoot a speedy pigeon with a BB gun, they’re moving things around so fast.”
President Bush indicated on December 28 that he intended to veto the bill because the terrorism-related sections “would imperil billions of dollars of Iraqi assets at a crucial juncture in that nation's reconstruction efforts and because it would undermine the foreign policy and commercial interests of the United States .”
Fay, who helped draft those provisions, pointed out that they only apply to countries on the terrorist list, “and Iraq was taken off the terrorist list in 2003.”
President Bush said he intended to work with Congress to find a solution to shelter the Development Fund of Iraq, the Central Bank of Iraq, and “commercial entities in the United States in which Iraq has an interest” from potential lawsuits dating from the Saddam era, indicating that he would allow the main elements of the law to stand.
So far, the Iranian government has not been forced to make good on the $6 billion price tag the terrorism-related lawsuits have brought, because it has moved its assets to countries that do not recognize the U.S. court judgments.
But lawyer Thomas Fortune Fay believes that the leadership of the Islamic Republic “is having second thoughts whether they should continue” the wide-open support for terrorist groups that has been their trademark.
“They are trying to bury anything that would identify them as the ones who did it,” he said.
Dr. Kenneth Katzman, an Iran analyst with the Congressional Research Service, believes that combined with United Nations economic sanctions, and U.S. efforts to restrict Iran’s access to international financial markets, the pressure is beginning to have an impact.
“Business owners are having to deal in cash, because they can’t get banks to issue letters of credit. The Oil ministry is finding it harder to find international partners for their development projects. So far, it’s all anecdotal evidence. But there is a lot of it,” Dr Katzman told Newsmax.
|Globe and Mail wrote:
Free of airport limbo, Iranian embraces Canada
Related to country: Canada
Globe and Mail
16 March 2007
Free of airport limbo, Iranian embraces Canada
VANCOUVER — After 10 months in a Moscow airport sleeping on cold floors, eating scraps from passengers and bathing in the departure lounge toilets, an Iranian refugee and her children finally landed in Canada Thursday.
Zahra Kamalfar collapsed with shock and happiness into the arms of her supporters, and a brother she hadn't seen in 13 years, mere moments after she descended an escalator into the arrivals area of the Vancouver International Airport.
“Canada, thank you so much,” Ms. Kamalfar, 47, said in stilted English, to an assemblage of news media and airport staff, before she stumbled to the floor, crying and shaking.
Her 18-year-old daughter, Anna Kamalfar, stood up to the microphones with her brother Davood, 13, in their mother's place, and said they looked forward to a better life in Canada than they had in Iran.
“I want a bright future for myself,” Anna said.
“I don't think about anything. I feel free now. I will see the sea, the sky, the sun. I say to everyone: Freedom is very important. Thank you, Canada.”
However, before the family's ordeal was over, the RCMP extended Ms. Kamalfar's legal limbo in airports when they stopped her for about an hour for allegedly smoking on the plane, an Air Canada flight via Toronto. An RCMP spokesman said charges were possible, but none had been laid.
The story of Zahra Kamalfar's journey to Canada spans two years, four countries, many legal appeals and a nearly interminable wait in the departure lounge of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.
Ms. Kamalfar and her husband, Iman, were Dervishes, members of a branch of Sufism that believes in mystical rituals. The Shah of Iran had granted them land. In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah, the Kamalfar's politics and religion suddenly became unpopular.
In 1986, Mr. Kamalfar was arrested for handing out leaflets calling for the return of the Shah, and was imprisoned for two years. The family lay low, and Ms. Kamalfar ran a boutique selling women's clothes while raising their two children. But in 2001, they returned to passing out leaflets, protested against Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and the death of several university students, and converted to Christianity.
In 2004, Mr. and Ms. Kamalfar were arrested again. Ms. Kamalfar was violently interrogated for “collaborating” in anti-government activities, and she heard through fellow inmates that her husband was killed while in police custody.
The next year, Ms. Kamalfar arranged for a 48-hour-release from prison, and obtained false travel papers. She and the children fled overland to Turkey and booked a flight to Canada.
The flight took them to Moscow and then Frankfurt, where her travel papers were questioned. She was sent back to Moscow, and held at a detention facility for 13 months.
Ten months ago, that facility was shut down and dozens of people claiming refugee status were immediately deported. The European Court of Human Rights put a stay on her deportation order after an appeal by a U.S. lawyer.
Unable to return to Russia, and without a country that would accept her, Ms. Kamalfar and her children were stuck in the Moscow airport.
“Aeroflot [Russia's international airline] gave her vouchers, and they got what little they could out of the food kiosks and slept on the floor,” said Washington lawyer Eileen O'Connor. “They had to wash in the bathrooms. When we met them they had blankets, because the airport gets very cold in the winter.”
Ms. O'Connor and other lawyers made an appeal to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on the family's behalf.
“The hardest thing was to prove her story and get the UNHCR to listen,” lawyer Olga Anisimova said on the phone from Russia.
Communicating with Ms. Kamalfar was nearly impossible, Ms. Anisimova said. It wasn't until a Russian doctor heard of her case through the media and gave her a cellphone that she could receive calls from the outside world.
She wasn't supposed to have the cellphone, and had to be vigilant to avoid Russian officials. And people she believes were Iranian agents attempted to contact her.
But once her brother, who arrived in Canada as a refugee from Iran eight years ago, had talked to her on the phone, he got in touch with the Iranian Federation of Refugees, who called Ms. O'Connor's law firm.
Ms. O'Connor got in touch with Las Vegas lawyer Zohreh Mizrahi, who spoke Farsi and could interview Ms. Kamalfar and draft an appeal to the UNHCR.
On Dec. 21, she was granted refugee status. The families and the lawyers heard late last week that Canada had accepted the family.
“We are so happy,” said her brother, Nader Kamalfar, as he waited at the airport with supporters carrying signs and balloons. “All my sister wanted was to see the sun. We thank God this has ended this way.”
12 years of excellence in the Community
Attorney Mizrahi Profile: http://www.mizrahioffice.com/attorneys.htm
Last edited by cyrus on Sun Jun 29, 2008 11:16 am; edited 2 times in total
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