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Orthodox Church rejects Israel court over Jerusalem property sales

Image of a Russian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem's old city on 16 September 2013 [Saeed Qaq//Apaimages]
An Orthodox Church in Jerusalem's old city on 16 September 2013 [Saeed Qaq//Apaimages]

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem yesterday rejected an Israeli Supreme Court ruling against an appeal it filed to annul the sale of a property agreed in 2004.

The deal is related to the church’s property in Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem as well as the Muslim Quarter in the occupied holy city.

When the affair was made public in 2005, then-GreekPatriarch Irenaios was forced from office by Greek Orthodox officials and replaced by the current Patriarch, Theophilos III. His successor has since waged a legal campaign to see the lands returned, arguing that the transactions were the result of corruption in the Patriarchate at that time and that a bribe was paid by Ateret Cohanim to employees of the Patriarchate to advance the sales.

The sale of the three sites transferred the properties to Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing settler organisation which buys houses and land for illegal Jewish settlement.

READ: Almost 20,000 new settlement housing unit in 10 years under Netanyahu

In a statement, the church stressed that it would continue its legal battle against the Israeli organisations in order to annul the deal, stating it would seek help from international legal bodies to carry out the mission.

It pledged to protect the residents who live in these properties as they are considered the frontline defence against the deal.

On Tuesday, Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna described the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal and illegitimate”.

“The seizure of the historic Jaffa Gate properties by extremist settler organisations is a new catastrophe to the misfortunes suffered by the Christians in this Holy City,” he said in a statement, stressing that the deal must be cancelled.

READ: UN calls on Israel to halt demolitions in East Jerusalem

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