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Radmanesh v. The Government of Islamic Republic of Iran

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 3, 2019




         Before the Court is Plaintiff Darioush Radmanesh's motion for a new trial following the denial of his motion for default judgment under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's (“FSIA”) state sponsor of terrorism exception (“terrorism exception”) and the dismissal of this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1605A; ECF No. 25; ECF No. 26.[1] For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The factual background for this case is described in detail in the Court's April 2019 Memorandum Opinion and Order denying default judgment and dismissing the case. See Radmanesh v. Gov't of Islamic Republic of Iran, No. 17-CV-1708 (GMH), 2019 WL 1787615 (D.D.C. Apr. 24, 2019). The following discussion reiterates only the facts that are necessary to resolve the pending motion and to provide context for the new facts Plaintiff has introduced in conjunction with that motion. ECF No. 26. The Court will discuss allegations Plaintiff included in his complaint (ECF No. 1) and in a declaration accompanying his motion for entry of default judgment (ECF No. 21-2), as well as the new allegations Plaintiff included in a supplemental declaration attached to the present motion (ECF No. 26).

         1. Plaintiff's Allegation that He Was Forced to Stay in Iran

         In Plaintiff's first declaration, he alleged that he is a U.S. citizen born in Kirksville, Missouri to an American mother and an Iranian father. ECF No. 21-2 at 2. In 1978, the family moved to Isfahan, Iran where his father was employed with Polyacryl Iran, a DuPont affiliate. Id. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Plaintiff and his family were told they would be executed as spies unless they remained in Iran and his father trained Iranian engineers. Id. at 3-4; ECF No. 1 at 5-6. In a supplemental declaration attached to the pending motion, Plaintiff now alleges that his family was “also placed on house arrest as a condition of [his] father's conviction.” ECF No. 26 at 3, 10. Plaintiff specifies that his mother “had to inform the Iranian authorities every time [he] went to the store, walked to a friend's house, or even played in the yard.” Id. at 3. The only activities excused from this reporting requirement were travelling to the state school Plaintiff was forced to attend and his eventual conscription into the Iranian military. Id. Plaintiff also notes that two and a half years of this house arrest occurred after the United States designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984. Id. at 4.

         2. Plaintiff's Allegation that He Was Conscripted into the Iranian Military

         Plaintiff said in his prior declaration that he was forcibly conscripted into the Iranian military at the age of sixteen to fight in the Iran-Iraq War as an Iranian solider. ECF No. 21-2 at 7.

         Plaintiff underwent basic training and was sent on missions. Id. This included being sent into battle and watching children and adults be killed by landmines. Id. at 8. Plaintiff was also forced to shoot a sleeping Iraqi soldier “in the head at point blank range” while on a mission. Id. In his supplemental declaration accompanying the present motion, Plaintiff now claims he was treated differently as an American citizen serving in the Iranian military, stating “Iranian officials in the military made it clear [that American citizens] were placed in more dangerous and precarious situations because our death would serve Iran's interests as an American martyr having died fighting for Iran.” ECF No. 26 at 10. He further states that punishments were harsher for American soldiers than for Iranian soldiers. Id. at 10. By way of example, Plaintiff explains that while an Iranian soldier who spoke out of turn or failed to follow orders “might only be responded to with a rebuke, an American soldier . . . would be killed or placed in solitary confinement.” Id. at 10-11.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in August 2017 under the FSIA's terrorism exception to sovereign immunity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1605A. Plaintiff served Iran in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(4) and through diplomatic channels on October 1, 2018. ECF No. 18. Iran did not respond to Plaintiff's complaint, and at Plaintiff's request, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Iran on December 10, 2018. ECF No. 19; ECF No. 20.

         Plaintiff then moved for default judgment. ECF No. 21. The Court denied the motion for default judgment and dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for want of subject matter jurisdiction. See Radmanesh, 2019 WL 1787615, at *11. The Court found that (1) it was unclear whether all of Defendant's actions towards Plaintiff took place after Iran's designation as a state-sponsor of terrorism, and (2) Plaintiff failed to plausibly state a claim that “an official, employee, or agent of the foreign state, while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency, . . . engaged in an act of hostage-taking or torture that caused personal injury or death.” Id. at *6-7 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(a)(1)).

         Specifically, the Court found Plaintiff's allegations that Iran had prohibited his family from leaving the country did not amount to hostage-taking because its purpose was not “to force a third party either to perform an act otherwise unplanned or to abstain from one otherwise contemplated so as to ensure the freedom of the detainee.” Radmanesh, 2019 WL 1787615, at *7 (emphasis in original) (quoting Price v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 294 F.3d 82, 94 (D.C. Cir. 2002)). The Court also found that the acts prior to Plaintiff's conscription were not torture because there was no evidence Plaintiff was in the custody or control of Iran at the time the alleged abused occurred. Id. at *9. The alleged abuse was also not “sufficiently extreme and outrageous to warrant . . . universal condemnation.” Price, 294 F.3d at 93-94. Finally, the Court found that Plaintiff's conscription was not torture because its purpose was for him to serve in the military, not something “‘similar in nature' to those [purposes] expressly condemned by the FSIA (i.e., ‘obtaining from that individual . . . information or a confession, punishing that individual for an act that individual committed or is suspected of having committed, intimidating or coercing that individual . . . or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind').” Radmanesh, 2019 WL 1787615, at *11 (quoting Torture Victim Protection Act, 106 Stat. 73).

         Plaintiff filed the present motion on May 22, 2019. ECF No. 26. That motion is currently ripe for adjudication.

         II. ...

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