Islamic centre near 'Ground Zero' in legal trouble

Islamic centre near `Ground Zero` in legal trouble New York: A proposed Islamic centre near the site of the twin towers that were destroyed during the 9/11 terror attacks here has run into legal trouble, with a utility firm saying the centre's developer owes it USD 1.7 million in back rent.

Lower Manhattan's controversial Park51 Islamic centre has in turn filed a law suit against Consolidated Edison (Con Edison), saying it owes the company only USD 881,000 and calls the utility's demand "grossly inflated."

The centre has filed the suit against the company over a default notice it was issued in September.

A New York state judge has stayed any action until after a hearing on November 17.

"Whether it is bowing to political pressure or seeking to retain the valuable premises for itself, Con Ed appears intent upon proceeding with the wrongful termination," one of the development group's leaders Sharif El-Gamal said in the lawsuit.

The centre, Park51 owns part of the property on Park Place but rents a part from Consolidated Edison.

Con Edison has threatened to terminate the lease, which would imperil El-Gamal's right to buy the property and derail the plans to set up the Islamic centre.

El-Gamal has obtained a court order preventing Con Ed from ending his lease.

The centre, which includes a mosque, faced stiff opposition last year from politicians, activists and families of the 9/11 victims, who felt that an Islamic centre should not be built a couple of blocks away from the site of the World Trade Centre that were razed to the ground by planes hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists.

The interfaith centre's leaders said the project will be a 16-story community centre with recreational, educational and cultural programming rooted in a spirit of cooperation and coexistence.