Woman can sue in US over art looted by Nazis

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The Independent US

The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Americans can sue foreign governments over looted art, stolen property and war crimes dating to the 1930s, a victory for an elderly California woman trying to get back $150m (£81m) worth of paintings stolen by the Nazis more than 65 years ago.

The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Americans can sue foreign governments over looted art, stolen property and war crimes dating to the 1930s, a victory for an elderly California woman trying to get back $150m (£81m) worth of paintings stolen by the Nazis more than 65 years ago.

The Supreme Court judges said that governments were not necessarily protected from lawsuits in US courts over old claims. Maria Altmann, 88, said the court was one of her last hopes for the return of six Gustav Klimt paintings, including two portraits of her aunt, looted by the Nazis.At issue in the case was a 1976 law that spelt out when other countries can be sued in the US. The law was based on a 1952 State Department policy. The Supreme Court ruled that the law is retroactive, and can be used to bring old claims.

Dissenting, Justice Anthony M Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice William H Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas, said the decision "injected great prospective uncertainty into our relations with foreign sovereigns".

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