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Church says evidence proves corruption in settler takeover of Jerusalem properties

A general view from the tower of the Church of Redeemer shows the Dome of the Rock mosque and the cross of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem, on February 17, 2014 [Saeed Qaq/Apaimages]
A general view from the tower of the Church of Redeemer in the old city of Jerusalem on 17 February 2014 [Saeed Qaq/Apaimages]

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem filed a suit in an Israeli court yesterday "seeking to overturn a court ruling that three strategically placed properties in the Old City of Jerusalem had been legally sold by the church to Ateret Cohanim", reported Haaretz.

The suit claims "new evidence shows that the sale of the properties was tainted by corruption on the part of representatives of Ateret Cohanim" – which works to boost the settler presence in occupied East Jerusalem – and that its "conduct was tantamount to that of a criminal organisation".

The new legal action seeks to have a district court verdict reopened in light of the new evidence, following a June decision by the Israeli Supreme Court which confirmed the earlier ruling.

The original ruling "found problems in the sale of the property but ruled that the church had not proven that the transactions were the product of bribery or corruption," reported Haaretz.

Ateret Cohanim has already "demanded possession of the three buildings, including the two large hotel buildings, the New Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel, overlooking the Jaffa Gate, and the eviction of the Palestinians currently in possession of the premises."

READ: Israel expropriates almost 70 acres of Catholic Church property

According to reports, the new suit cites testimony by a former manager of two Jerusalem hotels, who has admitted accepting money from Ateret Cohanim "to persuade Palestinian protected tenants in the Petra to sell their rights to the Jewish non-profit organisation".

The suit claims that this testimony reflects actions on Ateret Cohanim's part that are "extraordinary in their severity" and that include "fraud, forgery of documents presented in court and bribery including alleged attempted sexual bribery", said Haaretz.

The complaint also alleges that Ateret Cohanim "obstructed justice through perjury and the deliberate concealing of documents".

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