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Supreme Court says terrorism victims can't seize Iranian artifacts from US museums

(CNN) The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of terrorist attacks cannot seize Iranian antiquities currently on loan to a museum in Chicago in order to help satisfy a $71.5 million dollar judgment against Iran.

The 8-0 ruling penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a loss for United States citizens who were either wounded or a close relative to those injured in an attack in September 1997, when Hamas carried out three suicide bombings in a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem.

The petitioners sued Iran in US federal court alleging it was responsible for the bombing because it provided material support to Hamas. The court entered a judgment in their favor in the amount of $71.5 million.

Because Iran didn't pay the judgment, the petitions attempted to seize assets that are located in the United States including a collection of approximately 30,000 clay tablets known as the Persepolis Collection that was loaned to the University of Chicago in 1937. The victims sought to do so under a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

But Sotomayor wrote that the law, which grants foreign states immunity from suits in the United States with some exceptions, "does not provide a freestanding basis for parties" to "attach and execute" against the property of a foreign state.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she dealt with the case in her previous job as solicitor general during the Obama administration.