Rohen is Charged in District Court with Arson and Wilful Destruction of Holy Place

Israel’s attorney general filed charges in a Jerusalem district court today against Michael Denis William Rohen, a 28 year-old Australian national accused of setting the fire which severely damaged the El Aksa mosque in East Jerusalem Aug. 21. The charges drawn up by Meir Shamgar accuse Rohen on two counts: arson and willful destruction of a holy place. The first charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and the second, 15 years. The court was asked to appoint defense counsel.

A special committee appointed by the Israeli Supreme Court to investigate the causes of the fire heard testimony today from an Arab shoemaker who was one of the guards appointed by the Moslem Religious Council at the mosque at the time of the fire.

Meanwhile the El Aksa mosque and the nearby Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar) have been placed under special security precautions. The Moslem religious authorities have put in charge a Jerusalem Arab, Hazem el Halidi, who once served as a major in the Syrian Army and served with British forces during World War II. Halidi reportedly participated in two coups in Damascus before returning to his native Jerusalem some years ago.

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