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Today, Gilbert LLP filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was brutally tortured and falsely imprisoned by the Government of Iran from 2011 to 2016 after traveling to the country to visit his grandmother. According to Hekmati’s lead counsel Scott Gilbert, the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund, a Department of Justice-administered fund intended to compensate victims of state-sponsored terrorism and their families, has refused to pay Hekmati compensation that the fund awarded him two years ago.
“It is an utter disgrace that the United States Department of Justice has effectively blocked payment to Amir Hekmati, a former Marine, who was brutally tortured and falsely imprisoned in Iran for nearly five years,” said Scott Gilbert, lead counsel for Amir Hekmati. “Sergeant Hekmati served his country bravely in combat, and he endured years of unimaginable physical and emotional anguish in the worst of Iranian prisons. Amir was able, under U.S. law, to hold his Iranian captors to account, and he was awarded just compensation. Now, trying simply to get on with his life back home, he’s being victimized all over again, this time by his own country.”
According to Gilbert, after Hekmati’s release from Iran in January 2016, coextensive with the nuclear deal, Hekmati was awarded a $63.5 million judgment against the Government of Iran in the U.S. District Court. After obtaining his judgment, Hekmati was awarded compensation in a final determination from the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. Two years later, he has yet to receive even the initial payment of his award. Despite repeated requests from Mr. Hekmati’s counsel and members of Congress, the Fund has refused to provide any explanation or justification for its refusal to issue payment to Mr. Hekmati. According to the Fund’s report to Congress in February 2019, it has made 2019 payments on the awards of all other 5,000+ eligible applicants as of last February—except Mr. Hekmati.
On October 11, 2019, after nearly a year of unsuccessful inquiries, counsel for Hekmati sent a letter to the Department of Justice informing them that he would be forced to sue if payment was not made in fifteen days. Thirteen days later, DOJ responded that it would be suspending payment on Hekmati’s claim and sending it back for “reconsideration” of eligibility.
According to Gilbert, there is no provision for “reconsideration” in the statute under which the fund is administered. All awards are final. Hekmati’s suit alleges that this “reconsideration” is a retaliatory act intended to discourage Hekmati from filing suit and to avoid the fund’s reporting obligations to Congress.