Washington DC – For the past few months, the legal proceedings surrounding the sale of Persian artifacts on loan to American museums and universities had remained mostly dormant. That is, until, revelations occurred on three separate fronts of the issue. In the case of the Northern Illinois case Rubin et al. v IRI, two very separate developments have occurred. On March 29, new plaintiffs emerged seeking the clay tablets from Persepolis which are already targeted by the victims of a 1997 Jerusalem attack, Rubin et al. these additional plaintiffs want to lay claim to the artifacts so as to sell them and receive payment for a $2.7 billion decision in their favor.
According to reports, families of the victims of the 1983 marine barracks bombing in Beirut have sued Iran using the same Iran-terrorist link as the aforementioned claimants. As Iran is marked as a state sponsor of terror by the United States government, it is not protected by sovereign immunity, an international standard that protects governments from lawsuits in other nations’ courts. The new plaintiffs, like the previous ones, have said that they wish to have the rights to sell the artifacts to museums and universities as opposed to opening the potential sale to private parties. The fate of the tablets, valued at several thousand dollars apiece will be determined by U.S. District Court Judge Blanche Manning who said she would decide on the two claims separately.
The second decision dealing with Persian artifacts involves a March 31 ruling from a Massachusetts District Court in which the artifacts held by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston have been sought for sale in aid of execution of a judgment. This case differs from the Illinois case (in which NIAC is providing an amicus curiae brief) because the Iranian government has not claimed ownership of the Massachusetts artifacts. This decision is an interlocutory or temporary judgment which is a similar to a legal placeholder, a checkpoint before a finalized ruling is made. Interlocutory judgments are traditionally not open to appeal but it rare cases, such as this one, it is possible for the defendants to appeal. Reports show that the museum and university have filed for appeal. The appeals court has yet to reach a decision on this matter.
The long-term implications of these developments remain uncertain and a final resolution remains distant.
Arash Hadjialiloo is an intern at the National iranian American Council.