US & Canada

Iran hostage crisis: Victims 'to be compensated' 36 years later

An American hostage being paraded before the cameras by his Iranian captors (November 1979) Image copyright AP
Image caption A US hostage is paraded by his Iranian captors at the start of the crisis

The US victims of the Iran hostage crisis are to receive compensation 36 years after their ordeal, reports say.

Each of the 53 hostages or their estates will receive up to $4.4m (£3m), according to a US spending bill passed last Friday.

The victims of other state-sponsored terror attacks such as the US embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998 will also be eligible.

The hostage-taking lasted 444 days and led the US to break off ties with Iran.

The decision to award compensation follows a controversial deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.

"Those negotiations resulted in an understanding that an inevitable next step in securing a relationship was to address the reason for the rupture, which was our kidnapping and torture," former hostage Rodney Sickmann told the New York Times.

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The hostages have long fought for restitution, but the agreement that secured their release barred them from making such claims and their attempts were repeatedly blocked by the courts, including an appeal denied by the Supreme Court.

Congress was also unable to pass laws granting them compensation.

The money for compensation is likely to come from a huge $9bn fine for French bank Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the New York Times reported.

About $1bn will go into a fund for victims of terrorism and an additional $2.8bn will be set aside to help the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families.

The new law allows for payments of up to $10,000 for each day of captivity, while spouses and children are eligible for a payment of up to $600,000. Initial payments are due within a year.

Thirty-seven of the 53 hostages held after a mob stormed the US embassy in Tehran are still alive.


Image copyright AFP/Getty

Timeline: Iran hostage crisis

4 November 1979: Iranian students storm the US embassy in Tehran and take 99 people hostage, including 66 Americans. They demand the extradition of Iran's former ruler, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, from the US

17 November 1979: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini orders the release of female and African-American hostages, bringing the number of hostages to 53

28 January 1980: Six US embassy employees, who had avoided capture and hidden in the homes of Canadian embassy officials, flee Iran

7 April 1980: President Jimmy Carter cuts ties with Iran

25 April 1980: An attempt to rescue the hostages fails when a helicopter and a transport plane collide, killing eight US soldiers

11 July 1980: A hostage is released due to illness

19 January 1981: The US and Iran sign an agreement to release the hostages

20 January 1981: The remaining 52 hostages are released and flown to Germany

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