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Family Can’t Seize Iran Property

September 14, 1999

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) _ A federal judge has blocked the family of a woman killed by terrorists in the Middle East from seizing property belonging to a foundation allegedly linked to Iran.

Rosalyn and Stephen Flatow had sued the Iranian government for wrongful death in the killing of their daughter, Alisa, and in March 1998 won a judgment of $247.5 million. They were the first of several families to win judgments under a 1996 federal law allowing victims to seek punitive damages from nations that sponsor international terrorism.

Since then, however, the U.S. government has blocked the West Orange, N.J., family’s attempts to seize diplomatic properties to cover the judgment, saying the properties are protected by international agreements.

In the latest attempt, the Flatows tried to seize three Maryland properties held by the Alavi Foundation, claiming the foundation was linked to Iran and that the properties were Iranian assets.

But U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams ruled last week that the Alavi Foundation is a nonprofit group organized under New York state law and that it is not controlled by the Iranian government.

The Alavi Foundation, a charity controlled by the shah of Iran until his overthrow in 1979, funds Islamic centers around the United States _ including a Brooklyn, N.Y., mosque where a frequent preacher was Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, later convicted in the World Trade Center bombing.

The foundation _ formerly called the Mostazafan Foundation of New York _ denies any connection to Iran or its government-run Mostazafan Foundation.

However, Vince Cannistraro, a former top CIA counter-terrorism official, has said the two organizations are ``the same, under different names.″

Alisa Flatow, a Brandeis University junior, was killed in an April 1995 bus bombing on the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which Israel and the United States maintain is backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack.

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