27 January 2010

Crete: 4 arrested in arson attacks

The historic 600-year-old Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania, Greece, on the island of Crete, has suffered two arson attacks.

For updates, see the synagogue site, and read its blog (click on OUR WEBLOG in the menu, upper left corner of the homepage). Information is given on how to help the reconstruction.

Read the account of the second arson here, by director Dr. Nicholas Stavroulakis. His blog posts and homepage right sidebar provide links to many stories about the attacks.

According to various news stories:

On January 5, a staircase was burned and there was major smoke damage, but the second attack on January 16 caused extensive interior damage and destroyed the roof, along with the library with 2,500 rare books, the archive and equipment.

Four men - two British, an American and a Greek - were recently arrested by the Greek police. Their names have not been released. A fifth man, also American, is sought and believed to have left the country.

The Greek was arrested, confessed and provided the other names. They said they committed the crime because they did not like Jews.

The Guardian (UK) newspaper reported that one of the British men apparently was the ring leader.

The Athens News website reported:

One of the two US citizens who were wanted in the recent arson attacks against the Jewish Synagogue in Hania, Crete, was arrested on Monday [January 25].

The 24-year-old US citizen, who has been residing the last months in Chania and was making a living by doing odd jobs, was sent before a local prosecutor on Monday together with two British nationals aged 33 and 23 years old and another local 24-year-old who had been arrested last Thursday.

The two British nationals and the Greek man will testify on Tuesday, while the US citizen was given a 48-hour extension to prepare his testimony.

According to the the case file, the four suspects, together with another US citizen who is wanted and is claimed to have fled the country, are accused, in addition to the arson, with a felony charge of setting up a criminal gang.

An announcement by the Police General Directorate of Crete said that, according to Greek suspect's testimony, all five suspects participated in the Synagogue's first arson attack on January 5, while only two of the Britons and the Greek took part in the arson attack on January 16, which resulted in the most serious damage. The 33-year-old Briton is believed to be the mastermind of the gang.

To contribute to Etz Hayyim's reconstruction, read all the details at the synagogue's site.

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