A US federal judge in New York in a default judgment late on Tuesday ordered Iran to pay billions of dollars in damages to families affected by the September 11 terror attacks.
US District Judge George Daniels ruled that the Islamic Republic and other institutions must pay $12.5 million per spouse, $8.5m per parent, $8.5m per child and $4.25m per sibling killed in the incident.
However, Iran has not contested or shown up for the lawsuit and there is little likelihood of collecting on the judgment.
The lawsuit is a sideshow to a parallel case against Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks, but creates further momentum against the Saudis.
That case had been stalled for years by a legal ban on suing countries, but was approved to go forward to trial in March after a new 2016 law paved the way for specific terror cases against countries.
Moreover, the case against Saudi Arabia is heavily contested and has brought out threats from the Sunni powerhouse state to withdraw tens of billions of investments from the US economy if there is a judgment against them.
The Saudi government has previously denied providing aid to the hijackers, many of whom were Saudi nationals, and last month Riyadh filed a bid to toss the lawsuit. This bid, however, was rejected by Judge Daniels, leading to the successful ruling against Iran.
The Iran 9/11 lawsuit was first filed in 2004 and was joined by families of the over 1,000 victims of the attack.
It accused Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran for aiding the 2001 hijackers, although the 9/11 Commission never found direct evidence for Iran’s involvement.
The lawsuit was only able to proceed in 2016, when Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, permitting the families of the victims to sue state actors for the terror attacks. Then-president Barack Obama had vetoed the law, arguing it could set a dangerous precedent but Congress overrode that veto.