Appeals Court Backs U. of Chicago on Persian Antiquities

March 30, 2011

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday overturned a lower court's ruling that could have forced the University of Chicago to turn over invaluable Persian antiquities to a group of people suing Iran. Chicago has the antiquities on a long-term loan and has pledged to return them to Iran, but was temporarily blocked from doing so by a suit by American victims of a terrorist attack in Israel, who sued to recover Iranian assets in the United States after winning a finding that Iran was responsible for the attack. The appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs' approach (and the lower court's ruling) failed to recognize the protections the United States grants to the property of foreign countries. The University of Chicago and museum groups have worried that the lower court's ruling, if upheld, would discourage countries from allowing any objects of value to travel to the United States for any reason -- potentially limiting intellectually valuable scholarship or art exhibits.

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