Iran plans to sue makers of 'Argo': Could lawsuit succeed?
Iran's wants to sue the makers of 'Argo,' the Oscar-winning film about the 1979 hostage crisis. But legal experts say Iran will have a hard time finding any legitimate court to take the case.
News reports suggest that Iranian government officials are exploring the idea of suing the makers of “Argo,” saying the Oscar-winning film gave an unrealistic portrayal of Iran during the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. But experts say the legal prospects of such a move are exceedingly dim, suggesting that the move is likely just a publicity stunt to counteract the movie's positive publicity.Skip to next paragraph
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To stand any chance of success, the lawsuit would need to be brought in a country that has very loose libel laws, where the film's distributor (Warner Bros.) has assets, and where the government is antagonistic to the US, says Angel Gomez, an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in Los Angeles.
“That’s about the only way that I could see something like this working," he says. "Otherwise, it strikes me as a bit of political theater … but an interesting bit, because Iran is threatening to resort to a judicial system somewhere, instead of threatening blockades, invasions, fatwas, or other more direct actions of the past.”
Agence France Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday that Iranian officials are talking to French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who defended Venezuelan-born terrorist “Carlos the Jackal,” and reportedly is considering bringing the case before a court in France or perhaps in Switzerland. She calls Argo, “the historical falsification” of a movie “supposedly based on declassified” documents of the US government.
While the movie takes artistic license at some important points, it is based on the true story about how Canada and the US Central Intelligence Agency smuggled six American diplomats out of Iran after the US Embassy was taken over in 1979.
Precedent suggests French courts could consider the lawsuit, though the chances of a verdict in Iran's favor would appear remote. One thing that seems certain is that the lawsuit will not get an airing in the United States.
“Such a proposed lawsuit has absolutely no chance of getting into a US courtroom. Who is the plaintiff? What is the injury? What kind of remedy is a court supposed to impose?” says Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. “I don't see how any court would even have jurisdiction to hear the complaint. This is a political, not a legal, gambit.”