Palestinian, Jordanian leaders reject Israeli court settler decision

A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate that was sold to an Israeli company in 2004. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Palestinian, Jordanian leaders reject Israeli court settler decision

  • Top court accepts 2004 sale of property by church to a pro-settlement organization in Palestine

AMMAN: Palestinian and Jordanian officials have rejected a decision by the Supreme Court of Israel approving a controversial sale of three strategic locations inside Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem to a radical Jewish group.

Israel’s top court accepted the 2004 sale of property by the Greek Orthodox Church to a pro-settlement organization in mainly Palestinian areas of annexed East Jerusalem.

In its ruling on Monday, the court rejected the church’s appeal against a district court’s 2017 approval of the same deal on grounds of corruption.

Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the church — the Petra Hostel and the New Imperial Hotel, both located by the Jaffa Gate, and a residential building in the Muslim Quarter.

The deal made Ateret Cohanim the owner of the majority of the properties between the Jaffa Gate and Arab Market areas.

The church asserted that the deal was conducted illegally, and said in 2017, after Israel’s Jerusalem District Court ruled against it, that the court had “disregarded the Patriarchate’s clear and concrete legal evidence proving bad faith, bribery and conspiracy.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna described the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal and illegitimate,” adding “the seizure of the historic Jaffa Gate properties by extremist settler organizations is a new catastrophe for the Christians in this holy city.”

Jordan was right to decline an invitation to go to Israeli courts in order to overturn the enforced closure of Bab Al-Rahmah two months ago.

Wasfi Kailani, Director, Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock

The Higher Presidential Council for Church Affairs issued a statement noting its rejection of the decisions of the Israeli courts, which it called “instruments in the hands of the occupiers” aimed at perpetuating the occupation and empowering settlers. The statement called for the protection of existing tenants and for a “popular movement to face up to the policies aimed at removing Palestinians from their city.”

Hanna Issa, the secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and Holy Sites, told Arab News that the Israeli court decisions were in violation of international humanitarian law, which considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territories.

“The Israeli high court has approved the decision of the central court, despite documented proof of forgeries and bribes that were used to reach the sale agreement. This is clearly an attempt to obliterate the Christian and Muslim Arab character of Jerusalem. Palestinians living in these buildings are protected tenants according to Jordanian law, which is applicable to Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

Wasfi Kailani, director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, told Arab News that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is targeted more than other churches because it is the largest landowner in Palestine.

“What happened with the Greek Orthodox Church shows that the Islamic Awqaf Council and Jordanian government were right to decline an invitation to go to Israeli courts in order to overturn the enforced closure of Bab Al-Rahmah two months ago.

“All Israeli policies aimed at annexation of occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, including Jerusalem, are in violation of international law; these practices are null and void and must be rescinded.”


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.