The omnibus spending bill Congress passed in December 2015 and President Obama signed included a provision years in the making: $4.4 million in compensation for each American hostage held captive in Iran 35 years ago. The 52 Americans were stationed at the American Embassy in Tehran when Iranian students stormed the building in 1979. The embassy became their prison, where they were routinely tortured, for 444 days before being released on January 20, 1981. The terms of their release, known as the Algiers Accords, forbade the hostages from suing the Iranian government for damages.
Tom Lankford, attorney for the hostages, stated that 15 of the 52 former hostages have died, 14 are over the age of 78, and many are ill. Returning home required a difficult adjustment, and the prolonged captivity and abuse haunted their later lives. Money cannot erase physical and emotional scars, but it is a belated acknowledgement of the sacrifice they made for their country. Especially since, in the intervening years, Congress has allocated funds for other victims of Iranian terrorism.
According to The Journal News, the bipartisan legislation is also a victory for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA, who fought for years to secure compensation for the former hostages. The law makes each eligible for $10,000 for every day in captivity.
Damage awards for the hostages will come from a $3.8 billion Justice Department compensation fund created under a 2014 forfeiture agreement with BNP Paribas of France for violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, the Sudan and Cuba. Most of that fund – $2.77 billion – is dedicated to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which the omnibus bill reauthorized. The remaining $1 billion is to be split between the hostages and victims of state-sponsored terrorism, such as the families of the victims of the 1983 U.S. embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, the Beirut embassy annex in 1984, and the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998.
As advocates for victims of terrorism, the attorneys of Barasch & McGarry applaud this legislation. We had our own tough fight for the original Zadroga Act and its reauthorization, so we know how much dedication it takes to push this level of spending through Congress, even when the cause is worthy. If you have questions about your rights regarding any 9/11-related illness, call us at 888-351-9421 or contact our office online.