NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Seven Jewish-Iranian families have filed suit in an American federal court against former President Mohammad Khatami over charges that he is responsible for the kidnapping and torture of their missing family members. The families, currently residing in Los Angeles and Israel, contend that Khatami instituted the policy of imprisoning their relatives without trials and refusing to provide them any information concerning their whereabouts. The Jews were arrested on different occasions during the years 1994 through 1997, as they sought to leave Iran across its border with Pakistan.On Friday evening copies of the complaint and summons were served on Khatami at a reception in Arlington, Virginia hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Khatami has twenty days to file an answer denying the allegations or default the case.
The plaintiffs, who are not U.S. citizens, brought the suit under special laws - the Alien Torts Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act - which permit foreigners to sue their tormentors for torture and kidnapping in American courts. The lawsuit filed in the New York District Court is being represented by attorneys Robert Tolchin of New York, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Jerusalem and Pooya Dayanim of Los Angeles. The plaintiffs are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages against Khatami for his role in the on-going disappearance of their loved ones.Since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, millions of Iranian citizens have sought to escape from the Islamic regime. In normal circumstances when Muslim citizens are arrested attempting to leave without official permission, the established punishment is a small fine or a short jail term. However, in the instances where Jewish citizens have been similarly arrested, the Islamic government has instituted much harsher penalties. The Plaintiffs allege that Khatami has singled out the Jewish community and authorized the policy of secretly imprisoning the Jews indefinitely.
Over the years, the Jewish families have received reports from other former prisoners and guards that the missing Jews are alive and being held in different prisons. In the case of the Tehrani family of Los Angeles, a former Muslim neighbor has sworn out an affidavit testifying that he has seen their missing son, Babak Tehrani, in a Tehran prison two years after his disappearance.