NEWS

Patriarch sues over murder plot

The head of the intrigue-ridden Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has tabled a suit against one of his senior bishops whom he accuses of having plotted to assassinate him, a report said yesterday. In early April, it emerged that a Palestinian man had confessed to Palestinian authorities that he had taken money from «a person serving at the Patriarchate» to kill Patriarch Irenaios. The Patriarchate initially played down the affair, and its office in Athens issued a statement saying that Irenaios «was never aware of any suspicious moves against him.» Questioned on the matter then, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said there were still certain «legal and judicial aspects» to be clarified. A report in yesterday’s Sunday Ethnos newspaper said Irenaios has sued Timotheos, Bishop of Vostra, in an Athens court for allegedly engaging the Palestinian suspect – Yussef Naim al Mufdi, from Beit Jala, 5 kilometers (3 miles) west of Jerusalem – to arrange his death for 500,000 US dollars. This was confirmed by the Patriarchate’s Greek lawyer, Alexandros Kouyias, who told Ethnos he had no further comment, in accordance with the patriarch’s wishes. The name of Timotheos, one of Irenaios’s top rivals in the 2001 patriarchal elections, had been linked with the plot in April. Speaking to Greece’s Antenna TV, he denied having anything against Irenaios. Ethnos said Emil Jarjoui, the Palestinian Authority’s top official for religious affairs, had briefed Irenaios in person about the plot, following al Mufdi’s arrest – on suspicion of participation in a string of offenses unlinked with the Patriarchate – and had mentioned Timotheos as being the chief conspirator. The paper said the plot was twice foiled when key members of the assassination team were arrested by Israelis fighting the Palestinian uprising that started in September 2000. Irenaios is on bad terms with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Tel Aviv refuses to recognize the patriarch, claiming he is too close to the Palestinians, who in turn accuse him of plotting with the Israelis to marginalize his Arab flock.