Court nixes retrial over illegal Beit Yehonatan building

Judge slams petitioners’ ‘lack of integrity’ in appealing to court after disobeying injunction to seal east J'lem building.

Beit Yehonatan 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Beit Yehonatan 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Supreme Court rejected on Thursday a petition to retry four people convicted of illegal construction in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
Justice Edna Arbel slammed petitioners Moshe and Sivan Cordova and Ephraim and Miriam Friedler for what she said was their ‘lack of integrity’ in appealing to the Supreme Court after disobeying previous court orders to seal the illegal building.
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The seven-story apartment building, named Beit Yehonatan after convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, was constructed in 2004 by the settlement group Ateret Cohanim.
Despite court injunctions and orders by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to seal Beit Yehonatan, several Jewish families still live in the building.
“The petitioners continue to take the law into their own hands and continue to violate court orders... to seal entrances to [Beit Yehonatan],” Arbel said. “The behavior of the petitioners in this matter shows that they do not accept the court’s authority, and have acted thus over a long period of time.”
This is the second time the four petitioners have asked for a retrial of their 2007 conviction for illegal construction.
The four first appealed to the court in 2008, arguing that enforcement procedures taken against them to evict them from Beit Yehonatan were discriminatory and selective against them as Jews.
They claimed that Arab residents of Silwan had not been punished for illegal construction.
In this latest petition, the four claimed to have new evidence proving that law enforcement authorities had acted in a discriminatory manner and that the evictions from Beit Yehonatan were carried out for political reasons against Jewish settlers in Silwan.
They also pointed to statements made by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat as evidence of what they claimed to be “selective enforcement” of the law regarding construction in Silwan.
Among the evidence presented by the four petitioners was a response by the deputy attorney-general in 2010 regarding 12 buildings cited in the original trial as being built without permits by Arab residents of Silwan.
In that response, the deputy attorney-general had noted that city inspectors had only visited Silwan once in a sixmonth period.
The four petitioners argued this was evidence that no action was taken against illegal construction in Silwan by Arab residents.
However, in ruling that no retrial would take place, Arbel dismissed the petitioner’s arguments and accepted the state’s claim that the deteriorating security situation had deterred city inspectors from making more visits to Silwan.
Arbel also added that the petitioners had failed to demonstrated that the new evidence they provided would make a difference in the outcome of the case.
“The court ruled that the decision to indict the petitioners was not connected with any extraneous considerations relating to their national identity,” said Arbel. “The proceedings against them were consistent with the policies laid down by the [Jerusalem] Municipality regarding zoning and construction offenses.”