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US cites state secrets in civil lawsuit over Iran

The US government, citing state secrets and a threat to national security, has asked a judge to toss out a defamation lawsuit that a wealthy Greek shipping magnate brought against a nonprofit organisation seeking to thwart Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

PTI| Updated: Sep 16, 2014, 07:36 AM IST

New York: The US government, citing state secrets and a threat to national security, has asked a judge to toss out a defamation lawsuit that a wealthy Greek shipping magnate brought against a nonprofit organisation seeking to thwart Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

Victor Restis, a billionaire Greek citizen, sued the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran last year, claiming it was trying to ruin his livelihood and reputation by falsely claiming he did business with Iran.

On Friday, the US government filed papers in Manhattan federal court saying the head of a federal agency had asserted a claim of privilege to information Restis demanded the nonprofit organisation release.

The government, which is not a party to the case but sought to intervene, said the privileged information's disclosure could seriously damage national security, though its submission was vaguely worded and did not explain how a private organisation would have information that could harm national security if it were released.

It said the case should be thrown out because its continuation would be "highly likely to risk disclosure of properly privileged matters."

In his lawsuit last year, Restis sought unspecified damages, saying the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran had made "grave, inflammatory and extremely damaging accusations" against him as it "launched its campaign vilifying Mr. Restis as a despicable criminal in league with the Iranian regime."

The lawsuit said the accusations had "wrongly cast an unwarranted dark cloud of suspicion and scrutiny over him and the Restis family businesses, crippled his ability to conduct business around the world, caused him and the Restis family businesses to suffer enormous and irreparable financial and economic damages, inflicted extreme and irreparable emotional distress and harm, and successfully incited hatred, personal attacks and threats of violence against Mr Restis and his businesses."

In court papers, the coalition called the lawsuit "little more than a thinly veiled effort to silence a US organisation's efforts to prevent business transactions with Iran and thwart Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons."

Lee Wolosky and Brian Stack, lawyers for the group, said in a statement that the lawsuit was an attempt by Restis to deflect attention from his criminal and civil problems in Greece.