Canadian lawyers file lawsuit against Iran over victims of downed Ukrainian plane
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian lawyers, who previously successfully sued Iran, are seeking class-action status in a lawsuit on behalf of victims aboard a Ukrainian plane shot down over Tehran last month, looking for at least C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in compensation.
FEBRUARY 7, 2020
The suit names Iran, its supreme leader, the elite Revolutionary Guards, and others as defendants. Iran admitted its missiles downed the Ukrainian airliner by mistake on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people aboard, including 57 Canadians.
The lead plaintiff in the case is anonymous, preliminarily identified as John Doe, and described as an immediate family to a victim identified as Jack Doe.
The filing says John Doe’s identity must be protected because of the risk that “his Iranian family would be put at risk of harm or death by the Iranian regime.” The suit alleges that the downing of the plane was “an intentional and deliberate act of terrorism.” Iranian authorities did not immediately comment on Friday when government offices are closed. Jonah Arnold is co-lead counsel with his father Mark Arnold, who has represented clients in several suits against Iran, including a 2017 appeal decision that led to the seizure of some Iranian assets in Canada.
The 2017 ruling was in a case brought by U.S. victims of bombings, killings, and kidnappings that U.S. courts ruled Iran was responsible for. But the plaintiffs could not claim the $1.7 billion in judgments in the United States. It was not clear whether Iran has any assets remaining in Canada. Arnold said the case would likely unfold over the years, and any judgment could be renewed and enforced in the future. “Providing a voice for the families and seeking compensation for them in the courts is the primary objective,” Jonah Arnold said. “When we get there, and we need to look for those assets, that’s what we’ll do.”
Besides Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, others named in the lawsuit are top commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the head of the unit responsible for shooting down the plane, Amirali Hajizadeh. Foreign states are not typically within the jurisdiction of Canadian courts. A 2012 Canadian law limited that immunity for countries Ottawa lists as “foreign state supporters of terrorism,” currently Iran and Syria.