Four arrested in synagogue arsons
HANIA, Crete, Greece (WJC) — Two Britons, one Greek and one American have been arrested in Hania, on the Greek island of Crete on suspicion that they carried out arson attacks against the town’s medieval synagogue earlier this month that caused significant damage.
Three men – a Greek aged 24 and two Britons aged 33 and 23 respectively – are scheduled to appear before prosecutors on Tuesday. They were identified as waiters at a nightclub in Hania. One of two US citizens also wanted by Greek police in connection with the attacks was arrested on Monday, according to media reports. He has reportedly resided on Crete for the last few months. The 33-year-old Briton is believed to be the mastermind of the gang.
A total of 2,500 books, some of them quite rare, were destroyed in two arson attacks on 5 and 16 January 2010. The Etz Hayyim Synagogue is the only remaining one on Crete and today serves as a museum as the Jewish community in Hania was completely wiped out during World War II.
“I can’t say I’m happy now; they should have arrested them earlier, after the first attack, and not leave the synagogue unprotected,” Moses Constantinis, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told the Reuters news agency. He added: “We are worried, the Jewish community is worried.”
Meanwhile, the Greek government pledged to help renovate the historic synagogue. Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos told members of the Jewish community in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki: “We accept the responsibility… not only to repair the damage but also to protect this monument, and all the Jewish monuments in the country.” Venizelos added that Greece was in a position to play a more active diplomatic role in securing peace in the Middle East.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress