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Trial Over Iranian Building In Manhattan Ending


A building at 650 Fifth Avenue is seen in the midtown Manhattan section of New York, November 13, 2009

A U.S. government lawyer has urged a jury to conclude a charity must give up majority ownership of a Manhattan skyscraper, saying it is secretly controlled by Iran.

The trial, which began on May 30, is nearing its end as last arguments are being heard by the jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard told New York federal court jurors Monday in closing arguments that testimony proves the Alavi Foundation violated sanctions imposed in 1995.

The 36-story building is just north of Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral, and would likely fetch hundreds of millions of dollars in a sale. It generated close to $39 million in rental income from 1999 through 2007, according to the government's lawsuit.

Attorneys for Alavi say it isn't controlled by Iran. It owns 60 percent of a 36-story office building near Rockefeller Center. When the trial began, John Gleeson, arguing for Alavi, painted a different picture, focusing on the nonprofit's stated mission of promoting Islamic culture and providing social services.

The organization was founded in the 1970s by then-Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but after the Iranian revolution of 1979, it is believed the new government took control of the foundation.

The U.S. government wants to give proceeds from a sale of the building and other properties to holders of over $5 billion in terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran. Lockard says Alavi violated sanctions by hiding Iran's control over the building and by supporting an Iran-controlled entity that owned 40 percent of the building.

Based on AP and Reuters
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