Text: Appeal on behalf Archimandrite Dr. Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna - will
continue involvement in politics
[e-mailed to IMRA - see Jerusalem Post article below]
23 August 2002
On August 22, 2002, Israeli police arrested Archimandrite Dr. Theodosios
Hanna, Spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and the Holy
Land. At around 10 o'clock in the morning, he was detained by Israeli Border
Police at his home in the old city of Jerusalem after which he was
transferred to the Israeli detention and interrogation center at the Russian
Early in the morning, Israeli police at Yaffa Gate, one of the entrances of
the old city of Jerusalem, called him and asked him to come to the Israeli
police station to testify concerning an events that happened before a few
days. He told them that he would come after attending a meeting. After he
left his home in the old city of Jerusalem, a number of Israeli policemen
were standing outside his home. Also present there were a number of Israeli
journalists, who took pictures of his arrest. Israeli police took
Archimandrite Dr. Theodosios Hanna to the Russian Compound ('Moscowbiya') in
an Israeli police car.
At the Russian Compound the Israeli police charged him with: (1) 'suspicion
of relations with terrorist organisations'; (2) 'illegally entering an enemy
country', which means in Israeli official lexicon Syria and Lebanon; and (3)
'incitement'. Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein ordered
Archimandrite Hanna's arrest and interrogation. Archimandrite Dr. Theodosios
Hanna was interrogated for five hours, in which he was shown interviews he
gave to the media, in which he expressed his support for non-violent
resistance against the foreign military occupation. During his
interrogation, some journalists were present and he was filmed inside the
Archimandrite Hanna said that he always visited Syria and Lebanon to attend
religious and inter-religious conferences and dialogues. He traveled to
these countries on his passport issued by the Vatican. Moreover, it should
be emphasized that it is well-known that churches work across borders.
Israeli police confiscated Hanna's two passports, his Israeli passport and
his passport issued by the Vatican. This is the first time, Israeli police
arrested a religious leader or priest. The Israeli police interferes with
divisions inside the Church. It is apparent that Israel wants to impose a
different kind of Christian priests, those who are isolated from the rest of
the Arab world, Arab Christians and Muslims. Archimandrite Hana said: 'We
are opposed to harm any human beings, because all human beings are the
creation of God. This is an Israeli campaign to prevent an Arab priest to
obtain a higher position within the Patriarchate', adding 'Israel is using
these punitive measures to put pressure on the Church, violating its
independence and that of other religious institutions'. Hanna also said that
the Israeli government wants to pressure the Church on certain specific
issues, including opposition to resistance against occupation, the lands
owned by the Church in the Holy Land, in particular in Jerusalem.
Archimandrite Hanna was intimidated and pressured by the Israeli policy to
refrain from any political activitiy. He said: 'Israel claims that the
Church should not interfere in politics, but this is a false claim, because
the Palestinian cause has both a moral, political and religious dimension,
and the Christians in the Holy Land are part of the Palestinian people and
are subject to the same oppression as their Muslim brothers and sisters, who
both are prevented from praying in Jerusalem'. Moreover, it is an
established fact that Israeli Rabbi's intervene heavily in politics in all
possible forms, which is even encouraged by Israel's state ideology.
We call on all local and international institutions, those religious,
political, and human rights organisations to intervene and to protect and
defend Archimandrite Dr. Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna.
The Arab Greek Orthodox Chuch councils, committees and institutions in
Jerusalem, the Holy Land and Jordan
Archimandrite Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna: 050-668778;
Adi Bajale: 056-379312;
Attorney Ilias Khoury: 02-6283502 (office); Marwan Toubasi: 059-803097
Police question Greek Orthodox priest on ties to terror
By HAIM SHAPIRO The Jerusalem Post 23 August 2002
Archimandrite Hana Atalla of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was questioned
by police Thursday on suspicion of supporting terror and of traveling
illegally to Syria and Lebanon.
Police spokesperson Supt. Gil Kleiman said that Atalla had been brought in
to Jerusalem police headquarters at about 11 a.m. and was released at about
Kleiman, who said the police are continuing their investigation, said Atalla
was born in Reina, near Nazareth, and is thus a citizen. He said he is
suspected of having met with Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah during
a recent visit to Syria and Lebanon, where he allegedly expressed support
for terrorist organizations.
He is also suspected of calling on Christians to participate in the
Palestinian uprising, according to Israel Radio.
The investigation is taking place against a background of a struggle within
the Greek Orthodox Church to gain control of its considerable property,
which includes much of Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood and the land on
which the Knesset is built, now held on long-term leases, as well as vast
stretches of undeveloped land. The leases are coming up for renewal, and the
church has warned that it will not renew them.
Atalla, who is regarded as the Palestinian Authority's man in the
Patriarchate, has been outspoken in his criticism of Israel.
The PLO issued a statement on Thursday condemning what it said was the
latest move in a campaign to silence Palestinian Christian voices which
advocate human rights and a just solution to the conflict.
"It was an act of intimidation and harassment," the statement said, and "an
attempt to interfere with internal church affairs."
The statement also said Atalla is categorically against the killing of
civilians for any purpose. However, Atalla was recently quoted in the Gulf
News, which identified him as the official spokesperson of the Orthodox
Church in Jerusalem, as supporting suicide bombing.
"Some freedom fighters adopt martyrdom or suicide bombing, while others opt
for other measures. But all these struggles serve the continued intifada for
freedom. Therefore, we support all these causes," Atalla said in a speech in
Dubai on June 20, according to the report.
According to Itim, he also appeared recently on Hizbullah's television
Within the church, Atalla has been quoted as making statements which were
highly critical of Patriarch Irineos I, who has insisted that the church
must not be tainted with politics. Atalla's name was put forward by
Palestinian lay members of the church who are agitating to replace the
ethnic Greek hierarchy and install an Arab patriarch.
The Patriarchate, in an official statement, denied that Atalla is a
spokesperson. Bishop Aristorchus, a spokesperson for the Patriarchate, said
Atalla is a clerk in Arabic department of the Patriarchate's secretariat. He
added that the patriarch does not agree with the statements which Atalla had
made. The patriarch had also not given Atalla permission to travel to Syria
and Lebanon, he said.
At the same time, he said the church and the brotherhood, of which Atalla is
a member, are naturally concerned about the police action.
"We tried to make him be more moderate. We wish that the situation had not
reached this point," he said.
Israel is embroiled in a dispute with the Greek Orthodox Church and has
refused to recognize Irineos, who was elected patriarch a year ago.
Under traditions going back centuries, a new patriarch has to be vetted by
the rulers of the areas where his flock lives in Irineos' case Israel, the
Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. Without the recognition, he cannot
represent the church in dealings with the host country. Jordan and the PA
recognized Irineos shortly after his election.
Church officials say one of the reasons for the dispute with Israel is the
patriarch's refusal to fire Atalla, whom Israel considers to be close to the
News agencies contributed to this report.