Thursday, 22 September 2011

Terrorism Victims Blocked From Seizing Artefacts From Harvard

A bizarre and potentially damaging lawsuit has been slowly rolling throught the US courts. A group of American plaintiffs is still awaiting unpaid damages of $4-billion that a U.S. court ruled they were owed by the Iranian government as compensation for injuries received as victims of terrorist attacks sponsored by the Iranian government. In an effort to get this money, the group —under the leadership of Jenny Rubin— had laid claim to certain ancient artefacts which they believe to be the property of the Iranian government held in various US collections such as the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Harvard’s Peabody Museum. They demanded that the college and museum turn over the ancient Iranian artefacts for sale on the open market to raise the money for them. This week however a federal judge has blocked this disturbing move.
In a ruling handed down last week, Judge George A. O’Toole Jr., of the U.S. District Court in Boston, accepted Harvard’s argument that it, and not Iran, owned the artifacts, most of which are stored at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Even if the artifacts had been excavated and removed from Iran illegally, as the plaintiffs in the case assert, that still does not make the items the property of the Iranian government, Judge O’Toole held.
A similar judgement had been reached last spring, in the case involving ancient artefacts that Iran had lent to the University of Chicago.
a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a lower court had erred in rendering a default judgement denying the artifacts immunity from seizure under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act after the Iranian government failed to weigh in on the matter in court.
Let us hope this will see an end to this attempt to hold hostage archaeological material in academic institutions by those who see them only as commercial commodities to be cashed in.

Anon, 'Terrorism victims blocked from seizing persian artifacts from Harvard', the Ticker, September 19, 2011

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