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Bill seeks money for 1979 hostages in Iran

March 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) -- A bill introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., would allow U.S. Embassy employees taken hostage in 1979 in Iran -- or their families -- to be compensated.

Iran released the 52 hostages on the day President Reagan was inaugurated, 444 days after Iranian protesters stormed the embassy in Tehran after overthrowing the shah.

But because the country did not seize Iranian assets or retaliate more strongly, the U.S. government projected the idea that terrorism can work, one former hostage told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article published Sunday.

"The fact that we never did anything against Iran, it was almost like they were untouchable, and that's been my major frustration," said former hostage Charles Scott, who was hung by his wrists and beaten for three straight days. "I don't worry too much about torture."

Renewed public interest in the ordeal generated by the Oscar-winning film "Argo" gives the bill's backers belief that they can push it through. "Argo" recounts the rescue of six embassy employees who fled and holed up in the Canadian Embassy for several months.

The Algiers Accords, which President Jimmy Carter agreed to so the hostages would be released, doesn't allow the hostages to sue Iran directly.

Isakson's bill, which enjoys bipartisan and bicameral support, would allow the families of the hostages to get $4.4 million each from fines against companies that violate U.S. sanctions on doing business with Iran.

"It would have been much better if it would have been pure Iranian assets that were held here, but that was not possible," said Scott, an Army colonel who was the Pentagon's liaison with the Iranian government. "If it's a remedy that brings compensation to us, it's great. We can finally have some sort of closure."

Five years after their release, the U.S. government paid the hostages $22,000 each, about $50 for each day of captivity.

Isakson said drawing on the sanctions money is the best available route, and expressed confidence in the bill, even though it went nowhere last session, the Journal-Constitution said. Isakson said former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and new Secretary of State John Kerry supported the effort last year, but they couldn't attach it to a larger measure and ran out of time to pursue it as a stand-alone measure.

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