Feds seize four mosques, NYC skyscraper belonging to Iran-linked nonprofit organization (Jihad Watch) --- The nonprofit organization, the Alavi Foundation, may be owned by the Iranian government.
(AP) NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors Thursday took steps to seize four U.S. mosques and a Fifth Avenue skyscraper owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization long suspected of being secretly controlled by the Iranian government.
In what could prove to be one of the biggest counter-terrorism seizures in U.S. history, prosecutors filed a civil complaint in federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets of the Alavi Foundation and an alleged front company.
The assets include Islamic centers in New York City, Maryland, California and Houston, more than 100 acres in Virginia, and a 36-story office tower in New York.
Seizing the properties would be a sharp blow against Iran, which has been accused by the U.S. government of bankrolling terrorism and seeking a nuclear bomb....
Did Israel help "intelligence wise" in this bust?
Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama focused on the single subject of Iran when they met in Washington Monday, Nov. 9 - as did Netanyahu and French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 11. Iran also occupied the meeting between defense minster Ehud Barak and US defense secretary Robert Gates Monday. DEBKAfile's Washington sources disclose that briefings to the media and joint communiqués were disallowed for the sake of blacking out the content of these conversations.
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It is extremely rare for U.S. law enforcement authorities to seize a house of worship, a step fraught with questions about the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
The action against the Shiite Muslim mosques is sure to inflame relations between the U.S. government and American Muslims, many of whom are fearful of a backlash after last week's Fort Hood shooting rampage, blamed on a Muslim American soldier.
The mosques and the office tower will remain open while the forfeiture case works its way through court in what could be a long process. What will happen to them if the government ultimately prevails is unclear. But the government typically sells properties it has seized through forfeiture, and the proceeds are sometimes distributed to crime victims.
There were no raids Thursday as part of the forfeiture action. The government is simply required to post notices of the civil complaint on the property.
Prosecutors said the Alavi Foundation, through a front company known as Assa Corp., illegally funneled millions in rental income back to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli. Bank Melli has been accused by a U.S. Treasury official of providing support for Iran's nuclear program, and it is illegal in the United States to do business with the bank.