Cleric Arrested in Bribery Scandal

A clergyman arrested earlier this month in connection with a Jerusalem bribery scandal was identified Tuesday as Shahe Ajamian, 60, former Armenian Archbishop of Jerusalem. He was remanded in custody for an additional four days while police continue their inquiry into the affair.

Ajamian was arrested along with Jerusalem District Commissioner Rafael Levy and several Arab businessmen from the Jerusalem area. Levy, a top Interior Ministry official who is chairman of the District Planning Committee, is suspected of receiving bribes in return for favors to Ajamian and the Arabs. The favors allegedly involved identification cards, land deals and inside information on planned future projects.

Ajamian, whose identity was withheld by the court until now, is reportedly being questioned about several weapons found in his home and about the theft of valuable treasures from the Armenian Patriachate in Jerusalem.

His arrest has been criticized privately by people in various government and municipal agencies who saw it as a “wrong signal” to other clerics in Jerusalem, given Ajamian’s known sympathy for Israel. Media reports said he was arrested on orders of the police fraud squad without the knowledge of the Premier, the Vice Premier or Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem.

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