A Christmas gift from Congress for Iran hostages

In this Nov. 9, 1979, photo, one of the hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran is displayed to the crowd. AP Photo.

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In this Nov. 9, 1979, photo, one of the hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran is displayed to the crowd. AP Photo.

WASHINGTON -- Overlooked in the headline fights over the $1.1 trillion spending bill that cleared Congress last week was a payout 35 years in the making.

The federal government will finally direct up to $4.4 million to families of each of the 53 hostages held in Iran for 444 days.

A few of the hostages were from Georgia, and it's an issue Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has worked on for years. The reason it has taken so long is the deal President Jimmy Carter signed to get the hostages out prevented them from seeking restitution from Iran.

Isakson told us last week that after a new pot of money became available because of a $9 billion sanctions penalty against BNP Paribas bank for doing business with Iran, he got together with New York Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who were fighting for money for Sept. 11 victims.

Said Isakson:

"It was a good team effort teaming up with them to do that, and long since overdue. ... This ensures they will be compensated for the terror and the trauma and the torture."

We wrote about this a couple years ago when Isakson introduced a bill to compensate the hostages. A taste:

But the torture did not cause Scott's post-traumatic stress, the Jonesboro resident said. It came instead from how his own government didn't seek stronger punishment against Iran and has blocked the hostages from seeking recompense since their 1981 release.

The question remains when they will get the money. More background today from the New York Times:

The law authorizes payments of up to $10,000 per day of captivity for each of the 53 hostages, 37 of whom are still alive. Fifty-two hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981; a 53rd hostage had been released earlier because of illness. Spouses and children are authorized to receive a lump payment of as much as $600,000.