Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, of the Syriac Orthodox Church is the highest ranking Christian clergyman to be arrested by the Palestinians since the Palestinian Authority was created in 1994.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Palestinian Authority security forces on Saturday night arrested the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad.
He is the most prominent Christian clergyman to be arrested by the PA since its inception in 1994.
The Syriac Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is one of 13 official Churches in the Holy Land. The church is widespread not only in Syria, but also in Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and India.
Archbishop Murad holds the title of “Patriarchal vicar of the Holy Land and Jordan.” He has been serving in his post since 1996.
The Syriac community in Jerusalem and Bethlehem consists of some 5000 Christians.
Rasem Badawi, head of the Bethlehem prosecutor’s office, said that the senior church official was arrested following a complaint lodged against him by a woman belonging to the Syrian community.
Badawi did not give details about the nature of the complaint.
According to Badawi, the head of the church was currently being questioned and no decision has been taken yet to remand him into custody.
Sources in Bethlehem said that Archbishop Murad was arrested when PA security officers intercepted his motorcade as it was on its way back from a Syriac heritage celebration at the Bethlehem Convention Palace in the nearby village of Al-Khader.
The archbishop was taken to a police station, where he is being questioned about the woman’s complaint, the sources said.
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