Chicago Museum, Iran Fight U.S. Court

Nasser Karimi in The Guardian:

The University of Chicago and the government of Iran have come together in a rare alliance against a U.S. court ruling that aims to compensate victims of a 1997 Jerusalem bombing by auctioning off a rare collection of Persian tablets.

A U.S. court previously found Iran responsible for supporting Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the 1997 bombing that killed five people and wounded 192 others, and ordered Tehran to pay the victims $423.5 million.

The only Iranian asset that U.S. authorities could get their hands on was a collection of ancient Persian tablets inscribed with one of the world’s oldest alphabets, dating to between 553 B.C. and 330 B.C. The clay artifacts have been housed at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute museum since the 1930s.

A federal judge ruled last month that the school must auction off the tablets, the proceeds of which would go to compensate the bombing victims. But the university said it would appeal.

In a letter to Iranian cultural authorities, the museum’s director called the tablets “an irreplaceable scholarly data set” that should not be subject to political battles.

More here.