Israeli and U.S. Terror Victims Move to Seize Iran's Domain Names

Court papers served to the organization administrating the World Wide Web, would have the plaintiffs control the domains of Iranian, Syrian and North Korean websites.

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Iranian women use computers at an Internet cafe in central Tehran, Iran, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.
Iranian women use computers at an Internet cafe in central Tehran, Iran, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. Credit: AP

A group of terror victims from Israel and the United States have served court papers to seize the Internet licenses and domain names belonging to Iran, Syria and North Korea due to their role in financing terror.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed to issue a seizure order that will go into effect in 10 days, on grounds that the victims, who have been awarded compensation in previous judgments, have yet to receive their awards.

The court papers have been served on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, which administrator the World Wide Web.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan Leitner of Shurat Hadin, who petitioned the court with attorney Robert Tolchin of New York, told Haaretz that the seizure order was not aimed at shutting down regular websites in Iran, but would enable the terror victims to seize the funds Iran pays to ICANN every time someone there wants to open a new website or renew the registration of a website with the .ir suffix.

We will shut down only those sites we want to shut down, Darshan Leitner said. This battle is against the Iranian government and we have no plans to harm other sites. All the websites belonging to the government will apparently not be reregistered the moment the Iranian Internet is transferred to our authority.

Darshan Leitner and other lawyers told Haaretz that a domain name is a contractual asset that can be seized. One of the lawyers explained that if a court freezes the registration of a domain name held by a domain-name registrar, that domain name cannot be transferred to anyone else until the related lawsuit is resolved.

Darshan Leitner said the victims have already frozen Iranian bank accounts and real estate assets worth tens of millions of dollars.

ICANN has 10 days to respond to the terror victims. It can either hand over the Iranian Internet domains and licenses or challenge the decision in court. ICANN has not yet issued any response to the lawsuit.

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