US citizens and diplomats held hostage in Iran in 1979 are to receive payouts of up to $4.4m (£3m; €4m) each, reports say. A $1.1tn spending bill passed by Congress on 18 December includes provisions that would offer the 53 Americans, who were held captive for more than a year in Tehran, restitution for their ordeal.
The victims will be paid $10,000 for each of the 444 days they spent in captivity, with the money coming partly from a $9bn penalty paid by the French bank BNP Paribas for breaching US sanctions on Iran. A lawyer for the victims told the Washington Post that the compensation was "gratifying after a long, long time".
The Iran hostage crisis began when a militant student group stormed the US embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took 66 Americans hostage. Thirteen of the hostages were released two weeks later, bringing the total number down to 53. The crisis ended in January 1981, when all hostages were released with the signing of the Algiers Accords.
The American victims of the crisis, of whom 37 are still alive, had spent decades unsuccessfully lobbying for restitution from the Iranian and the US governments. "Iran is not paying the money, but it's as close as you can get," Thomas Lankford, an attorney who represents the victims, told the Washington Post.
Rodney Sickmann, who was a Marine sergeant working as a guard at the embassy in Tehran in 1979, told the New York Times: "I had to pull over to the side of the road [when I heard the news], and I basically cried.
"It has been 36 years, one month, 14 days, obviously, until President [Barack] Obama signed the actual bill, until Iran was held accountable."
American victims of other state-sponsored terrorist attacks such as the 1998 US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya would also be eligible for compensation, reports said.