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US court mandates Iran to pay US-based activist $3.3m in damages

While ruling doesn't specify where money should come from, it says Iran must pay nearly $3.3m to human rights activist Masih Alinejad
Masih Alinejad during an interview in New York, on 6 October 2022 (AFP)

A US federal court in Washington, DC, ruled in a default judgement that the Iranian government is obligated to compensate Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist, Masih Alinejad, with nearly $3.3m in damages for detaining her brother, Alireza Alinejad.

A judge representing the United States District Court for the District of Columbia awarded Masih, a US-based campaigner against compulsory headscarves in Iran, $1,662,500 in compensatory damages and $1,662,500 in punitive damages, after ruling in her favour and against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic Republic has an opportunity to appeal. 

While the court’s ruling does not specify where the money should come from, in 2022 the US government announced it was redirecting $7bn in frozen Afghan assets to compensate victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as for relief efforts. 

According to the news outlet Iran International, more court decisions are needed to order funds to be released from Iran's frozen assets, which are mainly in Luxembourg and would also require legal procedures in that country.

“In a major step, a US federal court has found the Islamic Republic of Iran guilty of wrongfully arresting my brother Alireza Alinejad and detaining him for two years to pressure me to stop my campaigns against compulsory hijab and gender apartheid,” Masih tweeted a statement. 

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“The US District Judge G Michael Harvey concluded Alireza was kept as a hostage for two years.”

US charges four over plot to kidnap Iranian-American women's rights activist
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In 2021, the US charged four people over a plot to kidnap Masih. She said she had been the victim of a plot "orchestrated" under the outgoing Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

In 2019, Masih said her brother was arrested and two other family members were apprehended by security forces in Tehran in order to pressure her into discontinuing her activism against the Iranian government. 

At the time, she shared a video clip featuring her brother prior to his arrest.

She said that the intimidation towards their parents had escalated and they were being coerced to publicly denounce her and her actions on the state-controlled television channel, The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

In August 2019, Alireza later received an eight-year prison sentence on charges of “conspiring to act against national security”, “insulting the supreme leader”, and spreading “propaganda against the regime".

In 2019, Masih sued the Iranian government, the judiciary of Iran, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for harassment against her and her family, following her brother's arrest.

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