Jerusalem court rules Israeli settler group permitted to buy Greek Church property, ending 16-year battle
Israel's Supreme Court had previously ruled that the Ateret Cohanim settler organisation had a valid contract to buy the properties, which are considered to be located on strategic parts of the Old City.
The Greek Patriarchate requested a retrial at the district court on the basis of an affadavit by a former employee of Ateret Cohanim, who allehed that the group had offered bribes and incentives to senior church officials on a regular basis during the 1990s.
The court denied the retrial on Wednesday ruling that the church had submitted the affidavit too late and that the allegations did not relate to the 2004 sale of the buildings.
The ruling is a death knell for the church's decades-long efforts to challenge the sale of the property, which was agreed under the Patriarch Irineos I.
The 2004 contract sparked strong opposition within the church, leading to the unprecedented removal of Irineos I, due to allegations of bribes from Ateret Cohanim that meant the buildings were sold much lower than their real value.
The incumbent patriarch, Theophilos III, has led the efforts to declare the contract invalid.
Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organiation seeking to increase Israeli-Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, will now be empowered to evict the current Palestinian families running the buildings in question, the Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel.
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