THE IMPERIAL HOTEL (left), inside Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: FLASH90)
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate regarding three tracts of Jerusalem land sold by the Church to Ateret Cohanim, via foreign companies, in 2004.
Justice Alex Stein and Judges Yitzhak Amit and Yael Vilner ruled on Monday that the sales to the Jewish organization had been perfectly legal, and approved the transfer of the buildings to Ateret Cohanim, a Jewish group that legally purchases Arab-owned property in east Jerusalem and the Old City.
The ruling refers to the sale of the Petra Hotel, leased for 99 years at $500,000, and the Imperial Hotel, leased for $1.25 million, both located next to Jaffa Gate in the Old City, as well as a third sale known as Beit Azmiya, in the Bab al-Huta neighborhood of the Old City, for which $55,000 was paid.
In a scandal that rocked the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, then Greek patriarch Irenaios denied knowledge of the sale at the time, and claimed it was void, then backtracked and said it was the work of the church’s director of finance, Nicholas Papadimas, without the church’s authorization.
It was also claimed that Papadimas had been bribed by Ateret Cohanim to advance the deals, and that the price paid for the parcels of land were significantly lower than their market value.
When the sales were made public in 2005, Irenaios was forced from office by Greek Orthodox officials and replaced by the current Patriarch Theophilos III.
Theophilos rejected the sales of land and took the case to the District Court, where it was rejected on the basis that Irenaios had the authorization to make the sales, leading to the Supreme Court appeal.
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