A New York man who says he was tortured by government officials in Iran in retaliation for his religious beliefs and for allowing mixed-sex dancing at his wedding has won a multimillion-dollar legal judgment against the Islamic Republic.
Ghollam Nikbin, who said he was shocked with electric cables during years of interrogation in the mid-1990s, is entitled to a $2.6 million judgment against Iran, according to an 18-page ruling filed Friday by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates.
“For me, it is a victory against the terrorists,” Mr. Nikbin said yesterday.
The ruling, issued in federal court in Washington, coincided with a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York’s Columbia University, which sparked widespread furor. The State Department has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984.
“I’m so happy they brought him to Columbia,” Mr. Nikbin said. “At first, I wasn’t. But then the world got to see who they’re really dealing with. They got to see how low and dirty he is.”
Iran did not respond to the lawsuit, which was filed more than three years ago. It’s not clear whether Mr. Nikbin will be able to collect on the “default judgment,” which is a common result when nations hostile to the U.S. are sued in American courts over their actions.
Mr. Nikbin, who was born in Iran and became a U.S. citizen in 1991, first came to the United States in 1975 to study in New York and later converted from Islam to Mormonism, the religion of his then-wife. But after a divorce, he returned to Iran in 1993.
In Iran, Mr. Nikbin married an Iranian woman in 1995. But Iranian officials arrested 27 persons, including Mr. Nikbin, after the wedding ceremony. The problem stemmed from an apparent violation of Islamic rules mandating separate wedding celebration sites for men and women, court records show.
By the end of Mr. Nikbin’s ceremony, according to court filings, boys were dancing with their mothers, which prompted members of the Munkerat and Mafasad Society, the Iranian officials charged with enforcing Islamic law, to make the arrests, records show.
Mr. Nikbin and 26 wedding guests were jailed for one month, and Mr. Nikbin was sentenced to 40 lashes with a whip.
Mr. Nikbin was released, only to be jailed once again, this time over questions about his conversion from Islam. During more than three years in jail, he said he was shocked with electric cables on the soles of his feet and hung upside-down
“Nikbin believes the Iranian officials assaulted him to ‘teach him a lesson’ about what they would do to him if he talked about the horrors he experienced while he was in Iranian custody,” Judge Bates wrote in his opinion. “Upon his arrival in New York, he was sent immediately to Bellevue Hospital … for seven months of treatment, which included several operations to remedy the injuries he sustained while he was in Iranian custody.”
According to Judge Bates, Mr. Nikbin’s incarceration in Iran was “so unusually cruel or outrageous as to constitute torture.”