Iran has been ordered by a US judge to pay $1.45 billion to the family of Robert Levinson, the ex-FBI who is feared to have died after being kidnapped by the Islamic Republic 13 years ago.
Judge Timothy J. Kelly made the ruling in federal court in Washington last Thursday, demanding $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping.
“Iran’s conduct here is … unique, given that — astonishingly — it plucked a former FBI and DEA special agent from the face of the earth without warning, tortured him, held him captive for as long as 13 years, and to this day refuses to admit its responsibility,” Kelly wrote in his ruling.
“And his wife and children, and their spouses and children — while keeping Levinson’s memory alive — have had to proceed with their lives without knowing his exact fate. These are surely acts worthy of the gravest condemnation,” the judge added.
Kelly compared Levinson’s case to that of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died in 2017 shortly after being freed from captivity in North Korea.
Although the US has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979’s embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, America stills holds billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets that could be used to pay Levinson’s family.
Iranian state media and officials in Tehran did not immediately acknowledge the ruling. Iran had offered no defense in the case. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday from the Associated Press.
Levinson vanished in 2007 after being apprehended on Iran’s Kish Island while conducting a secret mission for the CIA. His family revealed earlier this year that US officials told them that their “wonderful husband and father” is believed to have died in custody, which Iran has denied.
The family called the court’s award “the first step in the pursuit of justice” for “an American patriot who was kidnapped and subjected to unimaginable suffering for more than 13 years.”
“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions,” the family said in a statement.
“Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage taking by Iran.”