This file photo shows 650 Fifth Avenue, a New York City skyscraper that houses the headquarters of the Alavi Foundation.
A US court verdict has allowed the American government to seize an office tower in New York City owned largely by an Iranian charity organization, the Alavi Foundation.
A jury on Wednesday claimed that the charity was controlled by the Iranian government and the rent generated from the tower constituted a violation of US sanctions against Iran.
The verdict means that federal prosecutors can move ahead with their attempt to seize the building at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The Alavi Foundation is likely to appeal the verdict.
The government plans to sell the property, which is valued at more than $500 million, and distribute much of the proceeds to victims of terrorist attacks.
The finding “represents the largest civil forfeiture jury verdict and the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in US history,” Joon H. Kim, the acting US Attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
The Iranian government has said it has no links with the Alavi Foundation.
Prosecutors first sought to seize the tower in 2008.
In 2014, US District Judge Katherine Forrest granted authority to federal prosecutors to confiscate the building. However, an appeals court reversed that ruling last year.
The assets of the Alavi Foundation included the building in Manhattan, as well as Islamic centers consisting of schools and mosques in New York City, Maryland, California, Texas and Virginia.
American Legal scholars said they know of only a few cases in US history in which law enforcement authorities have seized a house of worship. Without rent from the office building, the Alavi Foundation would have almost no way to continue supporting the Islamic centers.
The Alavi Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1978, works to advance the Islamic and Persian culture in the US.
In the last four decades, the organization has also given millions of dollars to American schools, universities and charitable organizations; among them Harvard, Columbia and Rutgers university.

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