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Terrorism Victims Blocked From Seizing Persian Artifacts From Harvard

A federal judge has blocked an effort by victims of terrorist attacks sponsored by the Iranian government to lay claim to ancient Persian artifacts at Harvard University as compensation. 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. The plaintiffs suffered a similar legal setback last spring, in a case involving Persian artifacts that Iran had lent to the University of Chicago. In that case, 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 judgment 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.

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