Muslims face US seizing of four mosques over 'Iran aid'

The mosques are in New York City, Maryland, California and Texas.

Muslims face US seizing of four mosques over 'Iran aid'

US moved to seize four mosques in the US and a skyscraper in Manhattan on Thursday over their alleged financial aid to Iran, in an extraordinary step likely to worsen relations between Washington and Tehran.

Prosecutors in Manhattan filed a civil complaint in the federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500m in assets of the Alavi Foundation, which describes itself as a charitable foundation, and a company, Assa.

The mosques are in New York City, Maryland, California and Texas.

Prosecutors claim that the foundation and the company have been engaged in money laundering, with the cash sent back to Tehran.

The move could be designed to harm the Tehran government.

But the Obama administration also risks incurring the anger of American Muslims if the mosques, all Shia, are seized. The takeover of mosques would also raise constitutional questions around the right of freedom to religion.

The Alavi Foundation, on its website, declares its mission to be the promotion of charitable and philanthropic causes through educational, religious and cultural programmes.

"The foundation does this by making contributions to not-for-profit organisations within the United States that support interfaith harmony and promote Islamic culture and Persian language, literature and civilisation," it says.

It says it funds these activities through rent from the Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Piaget, which was built by a company owned by the Shah of Iran in 1978 and whose ownership passed to the Iranian republic after the 1979 Islamist revolution. Tax records show that the foundation earned $4.5m in rent in 2007.

New York prosecutors alleged that the foundation, through the company Assa, "illegally" sent millions in rental income back to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli.

The U.S. Treasury banned U.S. citizens from dealing with the bank.

The mosques and the skyscraper will remain open while the case is heard.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Kasım 2009, 14:35