|Iran's official response: the property confiscation breaches their rights of|
religious freedom [Image Source]
In New York City on Thursday, prosecutors announced plans to sell a Manhattan skyscraper that is owned by an arm of the Iranian regime. It's part of a terror-related seizure that we described here some months ago ["18-Sep-13: Striking back at the money that enables the terrorists"]. Earlier, we posted some details ["15-Feb-12:Is New York threatened by an Iranian attack? You might be surprised to know how real this is."] of how the sophisticated Iranian structure, which sought to conceal the regime's ownership, operated.
The settlement was approved yesterday by a federal judge in an action brought by 19 plaintiffs. It relates to the Piaget Building, a 36-story office tower located at 650 Fifth Avenue in the heart of New York City. AFP says ["US to sell Iran-owned building in New York"] the claimants in the NY property seizure case are the families and estates of victims of the 1983 bombings of US Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 military personnel, as well as the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US service members.
In addition to the Manhattan tower, US authorities will also sell Iran-linked properties in California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and the Queens borough of New York, along with the contents of bank accounts formerly in the name of entities that served as fronts for Iran. "With this settlement, we have taken an important step toward completing what will be the largest ever terrorism-related forfeiture and providing a substantial recovery for victims of terrorism," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.This comes less than a month after a groundbreaking court decision in Canada ["24-Mar-14: In Canada, a court-ordered counter-attack on Iranian terrorism"] arising from four lawsuits brought by terror victims seeking damages from the Iranians for training, arming and financing Hamas and Hezbollah. There too Iranian assets are being confiscated.
Few will be be surprised to know the Iranians are not happy. A report published in Tehran today says:
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman lashed out at a US court’s decision to seize the assets of Alavi Foundation, an Iranian charitable organization in New York City, saying the ruling lacks legitimacy and credibility. Marzieh Afkham was reacting to a ruling by a New York City court that authorizes the confiscation of property of the non-profitable organization... The Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman strongly rejected the allegations as baseless and politically motivated, saying Iran has already been a victim of terrorism. “This foundation is not linked to Iran… Terrorism allegations leveled against Iran are repetitive and baseless,” said Afkham. She also said the confiscation of a charitable organization by the US government constitutes a blatant violation of freedom of religion.There's more than a little room for skepticism when the subject is Iran's approach to freedom and rights. For the record, here's how one of the world's leading research centers on religious freedom in Iran sizes up religious freedom in Iran:
Iran’s Constitution defines Iran as an Islamic State based on the tenets of Jafari Shi’a Islam. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei exercises control of the government through vilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist), a concept put forth by his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini. The state holds a monopoly on Shi’a religious discourse, and Shi’a clerics who disagree with the state version of Shi’a Islam face persecution and imprisonment. Iran is home to sizeable Sunni Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’i, and Zoroastrian communities. With the exception of Baha’is, these groups are legally protected minorities, though they sometimes face persecution and discrimination in practice. The Iranian Constitution guarantees the rights of protected religious minorities to practice their faith and allots five seats in the Iranian parliament to representatives of recognized minority religions. However, non-Shi’a Muslims often struggle to gain entrance to universities, encounter institutional barriers in securing employment, and occasionally face police harassment. The Baha’i community is legally understood as an apostate sect of Islam. Almost 100 Baha’is are currently held in Iranian prisons for religious reasons, and arsons of Baha’i property in 2011 and 2012 have been ignored by the Iranian government. Despite current President Ahmadinejad’s strained relationship with Israel and his denial of the Holocaust, Iranian Jews face minimal restrictions on their ability to practice their faith. [Source: Religious Freedom in Iran: The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University]Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman probably prefers we don't look at these details of religious minority oppression in her freedom-minded country. And to put the point beyond doubt, there's this:
According to Iranian law, Baha'i blood or anyones' who marries or helps a Bahá'í or gets involved with them is considered Mobah, meaning it can be spilled with impunity. [Iran: International Religious Freedom Report - Department of State, US]