High Court freezes appeal hearing on disputed Hebron building

The High Court of Justice on Thursday issued an interim injunction prohibiting the military court of appeals from continuing to hear an appeal by the self-proclaimed owners of the disputed building in Hebron's "Worshipers' Way" until it rules on a petition regarding the same matter. Currently, there are legal procedures taking place on the question of who owns the disputed building in both the military appeals court, the High Court of Justice and even in the Jerusalem District Court. In February, Tal Construction and Investments Karnei Shomron and the Association for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, who claim they bought the building from its Palestinian owners, petitioned the High Court. They did so because the army refused to hand over documents related to a military order which served as the basis for the army's refusal to allow them to occupy the building. When the military appeals court sided with the army on the matter, Tal Construction and the Hebron association petitioned the High Court to order the military appeals court to change its mind. Thursday's decision means that the proceeding in the military appeals court will be frozen until the High Court decides otherwise. In the meantime, the High Court will hear the petition filed by Tal Construction and the Hebron association and presumably decide whether or not to grant the petitioners' request to see the documents. At the same time, the same petitioners have filed a second petition in the High Court of Justice dealing directly with the question of who owns the building. In each legal proceeding, the state has raised a different argument for refusing to recognize the settler takeover of the building. In the matter before the military appeals court, the state issued an order against Tal Construction and the Hebron association which prohibits a private owner from using his property if it causes an obstruction. The military order is new and applied for the first time in connection with the disputed building. Attorney Nadav Ha'etzni, who is representing the appellants in this case, is demanding to see documents related to the order to back up his argument that it was applied incorrectly. These are the documents that the army has refused to disclose. Meanwhile, Tal Construction and the Hebron association have also petitioned the High Court against the state's more recent position that the petitioners did not complete the purchase of the building and therefore did not own it. After reaching that conclusion, the state issued evacuation orders, on the grounds that the takeover of the building by the settlers was a "fresh" trespass, that would have enabled the police to evict the settlers immediately. However, the High Court has given both sides until April 10 to submit summaries of their arguments. The order was given on the assumption that the appeals court would hand down its decision on the legality of the military order by then. Now that those proceedings have been frozen, the entire process in both courts can be expected to take much longer.